Alternative to jail coming to Knox County for people with mental health issues

A ‘mental health court’ is coming to Knox County later this summer to help people solve underlying mental health issues.
A ‘mental health court’ is coming to Knox County later this summer to help people solve underlying mental health issues
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 7:10 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knox County leaders have set up an alternative to jail: a court for people with mental health issues.

Experts believe it could reduce incarceration rates.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs made the announcement during his budget proposal on Monday that a mental health court would be coming to the county.

A mental health court is an alternative to jail for people with serious mental health needs. The idea is to solve the underlying issues that lead to a person’s arrest.

“We know that incarcerating people doesn’t always solve the problem,” said Senior Director of Adult Intensive Mental Health Programming for the McNabb Center Candace Allen.

Allen was part of the effort to bring a mental health court to Knox County and said she had been advocating for it for years. Allen said there is a push to decriminalize mental illness and substance abuse.

“Really looking at how can treatment help these individuals instead of just locking them up,” Allen said.

The mental health court will cost $52,495, which is covered by a state grant.

A spokesperson for Mayor Jacobs told WVLT news that about 20 people would be eligible for the screening process right now. Allen said the mental health court will create a pathway for people battling mental health issues.

“We know that people need a mental health home,” Allen said. “They need mental health treatment, case management, community involvement, housing, all sorts of things that will lead them to a better quality of life.”

It’s unclear exactly what type of crimes will fall into the mental health court category, but it’s set to begin in August or September this year and will be run out of the city-county building.

The Knox County mental health court will be the eighth one in Tennessee and the first in Knox County.