Nashville to build first-of-its-kind health center for mentally ill arrestees

(Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There’s new insight into the plans for the Davidson County jail currently under construction in downtown Nashville.

In addition to the jail space, there will be a separate facility for a behavioral health center. It’ll be the first of its kind in the nation.

Sheriff Daron Hall sighted two examples of cases where this type of facility would have been effective.

You might recall last February when a man was arrested after walking around the Nashville International Airport naked. It was his second time for that type of offense.

And last January, a man shut down rush hour traffic for hours after he climbed up a sign on Interstate 65.

(Courtesy: iReport2/Scott Farrell)
(Courtesy: iReport2/Scott Farrell)

Both of the men faced jail time for what they did, but as the Davidson County sheriff explained, they also both suffered from mental illnesses.

“Society has turned to the criminal justice system to deal with a person who is acting out, who has a mental illness, and we need to get out in front of that, “said Sheriff Hall.

He told News 2 about 30 percent of the inmate population at the Davidson County jail suffer from some type of mental illness.

Sheriff Hall says it’s time to find a new way to treat the inmate population so that they get the help they need.

As part of that effort, Davidson County will create a behavioral health care center. The budget for the new jail is $133 million, and the department set aside $10 million for the center.

It will be a 64-room treatment center located in a separate space from the jail for people who have committed misdemeanor crimes and also suffer from mental illness.

“Our goal is to bring that person off the streets and treat the illness, and then release them into what is the community health system, where they won’t be a problem for the criminal justice system,” said Sheriff Hall.

Hall believes the program has potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars.

The new behavioral health center will open in late 2018.