The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office announced this week that it has been awarded $165,000 from the Tennessee Department of Finance to contract with state-approved third parties who provide mental health transportation. The grant does not require a county match and will solely be used by the Sheriff’s Office, according to a press release.
Under state law, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office is required to transport mental health patients to facilities across the state once they are evaluated and committed by a physician at Methodist Medical Center. The law does allow for third-party providers, but most departments do not have the funding to pay for that, according to the ACSO, which also says the grant will allow the [Department] to contract with a provider to transport a majority of the requests that are made.
The Tennessee Sheriff’s Association and many other organizations played a significant role in getting the state to allocate funding for this need. “Our office has seen a huge uptick in mental health transports, especially during the pandemic. There are days we are transporting 7-9 patients from Knoxville to Memphis. As you can imagine, this places a heavy burden on our deputies” Sheriff Russell Barker stated in the press release announcing the grant award. Normally, transports are handled by transportation officers or patrol deputies “It really becomes an issue when the shift is very busy with calls and a transport for middle or west Tennessee comes through. It’s a juggling act” Barker stated.
The Sheriff was excited to get this news and, in this morning’s announcement, praised the efforts of Director of Administrative Services, Tyler Mayes. “Tyler did a great job writing this grant for our office and securing the funding. He made a strong case as to why Anderson County is unique and in need of this funding,” Barker concluded.
Sheriff Barker and Director Mayes are in the process of executing a contract with a transport provider and hope to be up and running by early October, according to the press release.