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City of Memphis receives the NAMI Tennessee Sam Cochran Criminal Justice Award

City of Memphis receives the NAMI Tennessee Sam Cochran Criminal Justice Award

On September 22, 2021, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Tennessee selected the CARE Team (Crisis Assessment and Response to Emergencies) as this year’s recipient of the Sam Cochran Criminal Justice Award. The award recognizes outstanding work in the criminal justice system, specifically the fair and humane treatment of people with mental illness.

“The CARE Team has exemplified NAMI’s approach to de-escalating and diverting people with mental illness away from the criminal justice system and toward getting help,’’ NAMI Tennessee Deputy Director Roger Stewart said.

Part of the Memphis Fire Department Healthcare Navigator Program, the CARE Team was placed into service in 2018 and is a collaborative partnership between the fire and police departments and Alliance Healthcare Services. CARE provides a multidisciplinary response to complex behavioral health emergencies such as suicide attempts and mental health crises. The team is made up of a specially trained paramedic, a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) police officer, and a master’s level mental health assessor. The program’s goal is to provide the best outcome for the patient while avoiding an unnecessary emergency department visit or criminal charges which lead to jail time. 

“We are honored that NAMI Tennessee has recognized the innovative work that the CARE Team is doing in our city,” Fire Chief Gina Y. Sweat said. “This is a great example of the excellent and compassionate service provided daily by the dedicated professionals of the Memphis Fire Department and our partner agencies.” 

This is the second state-wide award given to the CARE Team, the first being last year’s innovation award given by the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations to Alliance Healthcare Services.

“By working as a team, we can assess the individuals’ needs quickly, link them to the treatment they need, and divert them from jails and emergency rooms. Mental health and physical health needs are addressed at the same time in this model which makes it unique, and the intervention results in enormous cost savings to local hospitals and the criminal justice system,” Laurie Powell, CEO of Alliance Healthcare Services said.

About NAMI Tennessee

NAMI Tennessee is a grassroots non-profit, self-help organization made up of people with mental illness, their families and community members. This organization works on improving quality of life for people with mental illness and their families through support, education and advocacy.

About Alliance Healthcare Services

Alliance Healthcare Services is the largest comprehensive behavioral health provider in Shelby County delivering outpatient, intensive outpatient, home-based, and community based programs, including a continuum of crisis services to over 22,000 residents.