CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the 19th Judicial Court are celebrating the state’s newest Mental Health Court. A ceremony was held Thursday at the Montgomery County Commission Chambers.

This is the 17th Mental Health Court in Tennessee, a special program that helps defendants overcome mental health challenges instead of going to jail.

“Mental Health Court is an opportunity for those involved who do have a mental health diagnosis that may be connected to the crime they may be accused of,” Mental Health Court Director Sharita Brown said.

The work starts when their lawyer or judge refers them to the court. Then the person is put through an intense program to help them with their mental health.

“Although mental health courts are relatively new, we do know there are benefits that come through,” 19th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Katy Olita said. “It’s not just for participants who have access to treatment consistently, but it’s families and the community that is going to be helped by this.”

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According to the American Psychological Association, 64% of jail inmates, 54% of state prisoners, and 45% of federal prisoners have reported mental health concerns. Several specialists said this is an ongoing issue that Mental Health Court will tackle.

To learn more about mental health court, click here.