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Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall Announces Mental Health Summit

February 28, 2018


“Music City Tackles Mental Health” one-day summit will focus on addressing decriminalization of 
mental illness

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville-Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall is partnering with Mental Health 
America of Middle Tennessee (MHAMT) to bring attention to the ever-growing crisis of incarcerating 
individuals with mental illness. The one-day summit, titled “Music City Tackles Mental Health” and 
scheduled for March 5 at Vanderbilt University, will feature speakers and panelists from across the 
country. Discussions will include historical and medical perspectives, impacts on the criminal 
justice system, and innovative, successful programs.

“It is certainly no secret my passion is working to decriminalize mental illness. I want to bring 
attention to the fact we hide mental illness and charge the bill to local jails by calling it a 
criminal justice matter,” Hall said. “People like to say we deinstitutionalized the mentally ill in 
the late 1960’s. No, we didn’t. We began institutionalizing them through incarceration. It is time 
we begin having open and honest conversations about how we treat the most vulnerable of our 
citizens. I am not satisfied with what is happening now, and the taxpayers shouldn’t be either.”

As an executive board member of the National Sheriffs’ Association, Hall has learned one of the 
most critical subjects to the nation’s 3,500 sheriffs is dealing with the mentally ill in jail. 
It’s certainly not a problem unique to Nashville. Taxpayers across the country are paying for a 
person to be arrested, booked, secured, and housed as a security threat inside facilities that are 
not designed with mental health treatment in mind. Additionally, correctional staff is being asked 
to manage this most difficult population with little or no training.

“We are all failing if we do not allow this subject to come out of the shadows. You would not 
incarcerate a person for having cancer. Why are we incarcerating individuals because they have 
mental illness? As a society, we have conditioned ourselves to believe abnormal behavior demands 
the attention of law enforcement. That has to change and I hope this summit is another step in 
exposing our failures,” Hall added.

A signature reform, led by Hall, is the design and implementation of a Behavioral Care Center (BCC) 
adjacent to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) Downtown Detention Center, currently under 
construction. BCC staff will work to divert those arrested, and who meet the specified criteria, to a therapeutic environment in lieu of jail. The one-of-its kind facility is scheduled to open in approximately 18 months.

Hall’s summit partner is Mental Health America (MHA). MHA is the nation’s oldest and largest mental 
health advocacy organization, and its local affiliate has been serving Middle Tennessee for 71 
years. MHAMT works to connect the community with specialized mental health and wellness resources, 
provide services that improve the quality of life, and promote effective services where mental 
health needs exist. Dr. Tom Starling, the local chief executive officer (CEO) of MHAMT, is the 
incoming board chair of the national MHA, is proud to be partnering with local law enforcement on 
this effort.

“When I spoke to Sheriff Hall, our organization was enthusiastic about joining with him to help 
shine a spotlight on an issue that many people do not want to acknowledge,” Starling said. “People 
with a mental illness often need treatment and recovery, not incarceration; and there are programs 
across the U.S. that Tennessee could implement. I appreciate our community having a leader like 
Sheriff Hall who wants to put energy and resources into such an impactful subject.”

Former Connecticut legislator Paul Gionffrido, who now serves as the national CEO of MHA, will be 
the featured morning speaker. Cook County (Chicago, IL) Sheriff Tom Dart, who recently appeared on 
60 Minutes because of his innovation in the subject, will be the afternoon speaker. The crowd of 
approximately 250 will hear from panelists that include a forensic psychologist from New York, 
medical experts from both Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College, a clinical professor 
from University of Chicago Law, sheriffs from Colorado and Minnesota, an associate professor and 
director of Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth at the Tennessee Health Science Center in 
Memphis, and a Memphis attorney/outpatient civil commitment advocate.

The event is being sponsored by Vanderbilt Behavioral Health and Correct Care Solutions.
For more information about Sheriff Daron Hall and the DCSO, visit 
MHAMT’s website is