MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A brand new court will open in Shelby County for the first time Tuesday.
The new mental health court will specifically be used for nonviolent, misdemeanor cases involving mental health patients.
Currently, jails and prisons hold the largest population of people with mental health issues in Shelby County--an estimated 25 percent of all inmates have a mental illness. The new court hopes to ease that burden and help keep offenders from becoming repeat offenders.
"If we're truly going to be a humanitarian society, you have got to start separating those people who have acute health issues and dealing with them in a different way," Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said.
Luttrell said the new court will ultimately save the county money by keeping more offenders out of jail.
Judge Gerald Skahan will head the court that promises suspects help instead of jail time. The assistance will include inpatient treatment, drug screening, education, and work programs for offenders.
The court will be funded with federal money.
The court officially opened at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday at 201 Poplar Avenue.