Tarrant will open diversion center to avoid jailing those with mental health needs

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Tarrant County will soon have a mental health diversion center to avoid incarcerating people with mental health needs.

“This will make a huge difference in how we do criminal justice in our community,” Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement. “The mentally ill, for the most part, should not be in our jails. This gives them an opportunity to not be there.”

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said he would like the center to open by Oct. 1, according to a statement from the District Attorney’s Office. The center partnership between John Peter Smith Hospital, MHMR Tarrant County and law enforcement.

The center would give police a place to take people who have been arrested on suspicion of low-level crimes, such as trespassing, and have mental-health issues that need to be addressed. There, they would get help with things such as psychiatric needs, homelessness, medication management and health issues.

“We recognize the county jail is not the place for one to regain one’s mental health,” commissioner Roy Brooks said during the commissioners meeting Tuesday. “This is truly a diversion program. These people will never hit the front door of the jail. The objective of this center is to stabilize this person and do a warm hand-off to community-based care.”

Commissioners do not know they will pay for it, who will manage the center or where it will be located. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said they will soon host a workshop to finalize management.