Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall Announces Mental Health Summit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Music City Tackles Mental Health” one-day summit will focus on addressing decriminalization of
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
“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 www.sheriff.nashville.gov.
MHAMT’s website is www.mhamt.org.