Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond announced today the roll-out of a crisis intervention team, an innovative, proactive law enforcement approach to addressing issues dealing with mental health.
Both the sheriff's office and the Chattanooga Police Department are training officers as part of the intervention team, which hopes to place the mentally ill in appropriate health facilities as opposed to jail.
Team members will respond when a patrol officer requests their assistance, so residents still are encouraged to call 911 for any situation, officials said.
The first team members graduate at 3 p.m. Friday.
"I'm excited it will help reduce the population in our jail," Sheriff Hammond said.
Police Chief Freeman Cooper said officers will learn skills to better handle crisis situations with the mentally ill.
"This will promote good relationships within our community and not just with the criminals," he said.
Maj. Sam Cochran, who started the first crisis intervention team in Memphis more than 20 years ago, said the program has helped reduce the mentally ill population in jail, consumer injuries and officer injuries in Memphis.
It also created a unity never seen before among law enforcement, community leaders, mental health advocates and mental health centers, he said.
"I think this unity was very powerful," Maj. Cochran said.
See tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete details.