Chatham Co. to get diversion center that would better serve some inmates with mental illness

Mental health and criminal justice

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A meeting of the minds - from health care to law enforcement - is taking place in Savannah with hopes to get everyone on the same page when it comes to mental health care and the criminal justice system.

It’s a task many cities and counties are trying to tackle nationwide - coming up with the best, community-based solution for getting help for people who have mental and substance use disorders, who end up cycling through the justice system for low-level crimes. Two consultants with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration led Tuesday’s meeting, guiding the discussion to find things like gaps in service and what resources the county and health providers already have at their disposal.

Chatham County and municipalities within will soon have a brand new resource in the form of a diversion center. Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone is one local leader helping to spearhead the project. She says it will be a 24-bed unit with six observation units. A groundbreaking for the new facility is scheduled for next month.

“This will be a big relief to the sheriff. He’s reiterated it on several occasions, and again, it will not tie up the officers for the extended amount of time that it would as if they’re booked into the jail,” Stone said.

Commissioner Stone says roughly 20 percent of inmates at the Chatham County Detention Center suffer from some kind of mental illness.

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