Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has often said the county jail is as much mental health hospital and homeless shelter as it is a place of correction.
As many as 40 percent of inmates are on psychotropic drugs, and a large share are mentally ill or addicted, ending up in jail because they can't access treatment or social services.
After forming a team and seriously studying the problem for about a year, Hammond on Wednesday asked Hamilton County commissioners to help.
Supported by a phalanx of medical and social service experts, Hammond asked commissioners to kick in $25,000 for an ambitious plan to get mentally ill and addicted people out of the jail and into an environment offering supportive housing and a full range of treatment and services.
He said the county's contribution would be added to similar donations from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and CHI Memorial.