Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold confirmed that in this day and age, local jails are becoming the mental institutions for those without help...
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Sheriff Arnold mentioned Clover Bottom in Nashville, which is one of the state's oldest institutions for people with intellectual disabilities or mental illness. The facility once housed over 1,500 residents with mental illnesses. Today, less than 40 live at Clover Bottom.
Now, most who suffer from untreated mental illnesses find themselves homeless and in the streets of cities like Murfreesboro. Many of those end up behind bars for various reasons that include, public intoxication, disorderly conduct or assault.
Clover Bottom is expected to close by the end of this summer (2015), according to a lawsuit that was settled in court this past January (1/29/2015). Greene Valley Developmental Center in Greeneville, TN must shut down by June 30, 2016. The Nat T. Winston Developmental Center in Bolivar, Tennessee closed this past year.
The lawsuit ended with a federal judge issuing an order that approved an Exit Plan that ultimately will lead to the end of a nearly 20-year-old lawsuit stemming from conditions at the three current and former state developmental centers for persons with intellectual disabilities.
After the story aired we recevied the below email from the State of Tennessee. It is important to note that prior to posting this story, we reached out to Clover Bottom for answers. WGNS' Scott Walker was sent from one person to another at the institution and finally left a voice mail. However, WGNS never received a return phone call from Clover Bottom. However, this email was sent to WGNS one week after this story was posted:
Email from Cara Kumari, Director of Communications (DIDD)
I came across your story and interview with Sheriff Robert Arnold about persons with Mental Illness and the closure of Clover Bottom and wanted to offer a few facts.
First of all, the current and former institutions operated by the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Clover Bottom, Greene Valley, Arlington and Nat T. Winston) supported people who have intellectual disabilities. There are still four Mental Health Institutes operated by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services around the state. DIDD institutions house some of the most medically complex people with intellectual disabilities and very few persons who experience challenging behaviors. Persons who have transitioned from institutional settings have many choices available to them for long term support settings. Residential options include support through private providers in the community or into private intermediate care facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities. It is inaccurate to make statements indicting persons are "left homeless in the streets" and serves mainly to confuse both the persons involved in active transition process and the general public who are less exposed to the realities of service provision for persons living with an intellectual disability.
All that being said, we understand that law enforcement occasionally come into contact with people with intellectual disabilities. That's why, as part of our lawsuit exit plan, we have developed informational materials and training for law enforcement officers about how to interact with persons who have an intellectual disability. We presented our first training at the TLETOA conference to more than 60 different law enforcement agencies at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro on May 22, 2015. A press release about this training can be found here: http://www.tn.gov/didd/news/14456
I'm happy to answer any questions you might have. I found Sheriff Arnold's comments and subsequent internet story to be misguided and wanted to make you aware of some facts surrounding persons living with disabilities, education we provide law enforcement officers and how persons are transitioned from state institutions.
- Cara Kumari, Director of Communications