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Tarrant’s mental health diversion center is never full. Could that change with new rules?

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - 3/21/2023

Tarrant County commissioners will consider expanding the types of charges accepted for admission to its mental health jail diversion center.

The diversion center opened in January 2022 with a goal to provide resources to people showing signs of mental illness when they are arrested.

The diversion center is run by MHMR and located on West Morphy Street in Fort Worth’s Fairmount neighborhood. It has has consistently run under capacity, and has come under fire for not having enough law enforcement agencies taking advantage of the resource.

It only accepts people who have been arrested on criminal trespass charges. Those who have been arrested on violent offenses and those who are experiencing medical emergencies are not taken to the center.

Ramey Heddins, MHMR’s chief of behavioral health, told commissioners at their Tuesday meeting that over the last three months the number of people taken to the center has increased but that the numbers still needed to improve.

The center is taking around 27 or 28 people a month, Heddins told reporters after the meeting. It has capacity for around 40.

Commissioner Roy Brooks told the court that though officials were looking into expanding the variety of the types of charges people taken to the center can have, they would still exclude violent offenses. Brooks said the county would also explore ways to transfer people from the jail to the diversion center if they exhibit signs of mental illness

Following the meeting, Heddins told reporters he knew there had been efforts to make law enforcement agencies across the county aware of the center. Heddins said officials were still trying to determine what other charges would be accepted at the center besides criminal trespass.

Brooks said the ideas will be taken to the center’s advisory committee and presented to the commissioners court come Feb. 28.

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