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Tennessee to expand mental health outreach to reduce arrests

The state of Tennessee has announced that it has received a $75,000 federal grant to develop a plan to expand the Crisis Intervention Team program across the state. The mental health and law enforcement program that got its start in Memphis three decades ago is now in 18 of Tennessee's 95 counties.

According to the Department of Corrections, more than one in four inmates -- 28 percent -- has mental health issues. Ideally, the Crisis Intervention Team model helps individuals access mental health resources and avoid being arrested on drug charges, DUI, domestic violence charges and other infractions commonly associated with mental health issues.

"We know this model works," said Mental Health Commissioner Marie Williams. "This funding is going to go a long way toward spreading (CIT) across the state."

She added that "by prepositioning the resources a person needs before they reach that crisis state, we can help keep them out of jail."

According to our city's website, "the Memphis Police Department has approximately 268 CIT officers." Officers get specialized training from mental health providers and mental health consumer groups so that they "can offer a more humane and calm approach" in encounters with people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Experts have long said that individuals involved in drug activities are often trying to self-medicate and deal with difficult mental health issues on their own. Steering those individuals to professional mental health providers can reduce drug use, crime and prison populations.

You are not alone if you face drug possession or distribution charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you or a loved one fight for the opportunity to get the help needed.

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