Hamilton County Sheriff's Office awarded $2.2 million grant to help homeless, frequent users of justice system

Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks about costs of school resource officers in schools in June 2019 during a roundtable discussion at the Children's Hospital Kennedy Outpatient Center.

Hamilton County is among three communities in the nation to receive a $2.2 million grant to help people who are homeless with a mental illness. The grant, awarded to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and announced Friday, will stabilize people considered "high utilizers" of the local health care and justice system, saving the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, Sheriff Jim Hammond said.

The money from the U.S. Department of Justice will allow the county to begin the pilot version of Frequent Users Systems Engagement (FUSE) - a program used in 30 communities throughout the nation with proven results stabilizing housing and keeping people out of jail.

The sheriff's office will work with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, CHI Memorial, Erlanger Medical Group, the Chattanooga Housing Authority and the city of Chattanooga to determine who is eligible for the support, Hammond said, though the program will not accept people convicted of felonies.