The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) and Sheriff Daron Hall held their fourth annual Lifecycle Conference on August 2 at St. James Missionary Baptist Church. The conference featured a host of guest speakers such as morning speaker Sheriff Hall and lunch speaker Matt Yancey, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Mental Health Services of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Yancey filled in for his boss, Tennessee Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Marie Williams, who was summoned by the Governor to attend to other matters.
Employees of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office take their roles as public servants seriously and regularly devote their time and energy to going the extra mile to support the community. The Community Outreach Division was created to help facilitate this dedication and markets different ways to get DCSO volunteers into the community, bridging the gap between the Sheriff’s Office and residents of Davidson County. Since its 2002 inception, this division has organized hundreds of events. The Lifecycle Conference is the brainchild of Community Relations Director Thomas E. Hunter, Sr.
The mission of Lifecycle is to promote community prevention programs, awareness and education within the jail community, and the transition from jail to community. Lifecycle is really all about making sure offenders leave jail better than when they entered. This isn’t possible without community partners and volunteers. Joining this collaborative discussion on August 2 were others who want to break the cycle of crime and turn lives around. The conference also featured breakout sessions from area leaders.
The Lifecycle Conference was designed to provide education and awareness for the community on issues regarding offenders in an effort to achieve six clearly defined goals, as follows: to stimulate discussion of ideas that would challenge the community reception of the ex-offender; to share ideas regarding the need to have multiple county, community, and jail programs working in unison; to exchange information and ideas specific to the inmate incarceration and how to best use that time; to increase awareness of the value and benefits of offender workforce development in conjunction with the re-entry process; to ultimately increase safety in Davidson County by reducing recidivism; and to create a viable countywide network of communication between the DCSO and community partners.
Sheriff Hall began the day with an impassioned keynote. He noted the recent overdose and suicide deaths that have wracked the community, including the Nashville Mayor’s son and a recent retiree. He noted that times are very serious these days, saying, “the bad decisions I made as a college kid weren’t as deadly as they are today.”
Hall shared that every month he gets the same phone call, from a different parent or grandparent. It goes like this, “You don’t know me, but I need your help getting my grand-daughter arrested, because we think she’s gonna die in the street.” The sheriff’s department doesn’t arrest. He noted that “they love their grand-daughter…they don’t want to punish her; they want to help her. My hope is that the community at large can help pick that person up… we are responsible for them.”
He went on to describe how 30 to 40 of the 100 people who go to jail in Nashville daily have mental health diagnoses. When a person has a heart attack you call EMT’s; what do you do when someone has a mental health attack? We need to treat their actual underlying issues.
State Rep. Brenda Gilmore was in attendance for the session, and afterwards she told the PRIDE, “We need to make sure that young people, when they are in trouble, get the mental health analysis to identify their needs and then get them the help they need.”
Breakout Sessions were sponsored by the following community agencies: Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), Dismas House (DH), Juvenile Court Programs (JCP), Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (TDMHSA), Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship (IMF), District Attorney’s Office (DA), and Nashville Institute for Faith and Work (NIFW). Breakout Sessions were held in three time blocks, as follows: 9-9:50am (9); 10-10:50am (10) and 11-11:50am (11).
Topics covered were the following: Programming at the Sheriff’s office (9) and Transition from Jail to Community (10) – DCSO; Housing – DH; Parental Assistance Court (9), Assessments (10), and Metro Students Attendance Center (11) – JCP; Faith & Family (9), History of Black Gangs in America (10), and The Church and Social Justice (11) – IMF; Violence Interrupted Program (9) and Human Trafficking Issues (10) – DA; Faith & Work (9) and (10), Faith & Community (11) – (NIFW); Criminal Justice Liason & Recovery Courts Programs (9), Tennessee State Crisis Program (10), and Behavioral Health Safety Net and Incorporating Recovery in Congregations (11) – (TDMHSA).
The Luncheon address by Matt Yancey covered a wide range of programs offered by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. He praised his boss, Marie Williams, saying “I don’t know if there’s anyone more passionate, energetic, and more committed to addressing the behavioral health needs of Tennesseans than Commissioner Williams. It’s truly an honor to serve with her and she certainly sends her regards.”
In his address, he spoke to “who we are as a department, what role we play in supporting those with behavioral helath needs, and what our vision is for moving forward.”
He noted that after meeting with Sheriff Hall “to learn more about his vision to start a mental health jail diversion program for low-level offenders who are arrested or violate probation,” he was highly impressed. “My first thought was, wow, what a visionary. A great advocate for those affected by mental illness. His passion for decriminalizing the mentally ill was and is infectious.”
Yancey went on to decribe his department’s mission “to provide, plan for, and promote a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation, and recovery support services for Tennesseans with mental illness and substance use issues.” His presentation was quite comprehensive, thorough and detailed.
“There is more work to be done to reduce the stigma and support re-entry — and more to be done to divert individuals from jail who have behavioral health needs,” he said in closing. “What we do know, unequivocally, is that when the response is collaborative, when the response is coordinated, the outcomes are better — this is why it is so important that we all work together on behalf of this population. We also know that behavioral health is essential to health. We know that both prevention and treatment are equally as important. We also know that people can, and in fact do, recover from mental illness and substance use disorders.”
Following the luncheon keynote, a panel discussion was held, first addressing two topics: Perception versus Reality and Alternative Ways to Deal with Problems.
“My abnormalities had become so normal, I didn’t even know I was abnormal,” host Pastor Rev. Brooks and panel moderator shared. Starting out the afternoon panel, he noted that as a Vietnam veteran, he has been diagnosed “50% PTSD.” He also spoke about issues he had addressed by chiropractic that were able to be addressed by them that tradition medical practices had not been able to.
Roundtable panel speakers at this year’s Lifecycle Conference were as follows (alphabetically): Derek Blake; Gerald Brown; Judge Sheila Calloway; Dr. Malinda Davenport-Crisp; Gwen Hamer, MA, CPC; State Rep. Rev. Harold Moses Love, Jr.; Dr. Kevin Riggs; and Missy Wallace.
Derek Blake is the Chief Operating Officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee in which he oversees 7 Club locations and a RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program. When Director Hunter opened the discussion by inquiring about Perception and Reality, in terms of the differences in the community’s inaccurate perception of an issue and its known actual reality by professional folks working in the area, Blake was passionate about the community misperception, fed by movies, music, and media, that the Black church is doing nothing of value in the community, saying “we are doing a lot” and backing that up with a rundown of a few current programs and activities.
Gerald Brown, the Chief Executive Officer for Dismas, Inc. says “I hope to galvanize the community, enrich the lives our clients, and raise awareness about the work Dismas does in the community. I look forward to the opportunity to serve those seeking a second chance at life.” Brown noted that for years Dismas has served 8 men at a time, but going forward they will increase their services to 76 men at a time.
Judge Sheila Calloway presides over the legal services for Metro Juvenile courts, overseeing a staff of 125. She noted that only 12 of those 125 are charged to do assessments for the 15,000 children that are served each year. She dovetailed on Dr. Riggs that “Radical compassion leads to hope; that hope leads to success.” She noted that runaways are running either from something or to something, and it is important to find out what that something is.
Dr. Malinda Davenport-Crisp is Executive Director of Family Reconciliation Center, a nonprofit organization based in Nashville serving families impacted by incarceration since 1984. She earned a Ph.D in Clinical Counseling and Supervision in 2014 at Vanderbilt University, where her dissertation was on factors impacting ex-offenders during the critical reentry period. Her extensive experience centers on counseling ex-offenders and their families, and individuals who suffer from trauma, addiction/chemical and relationship dependency, and other life controlling issues. She is passionate about helping family members grow even under difficult, often tragic, conditions. Her description of the travails of some persons she has worked with who are caught in the cycle of abuse was both graphic and disturbing.
Gwen Hamer, MA, CPC, is Director of Education and Development and Coordinator of The Title VI Compliance Office for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), where she works to develop educational programs which impact the continuum of mental health care in Tennessee. She has held key positions in her previous employment and at Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Mrs. Hamer earned her BS degree in Social Welfare from Tennessee State University and her Master’s degree in Social Gerontology from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Hamer was adamant that something must be done to reduce the rates of suicide across the board in our communities, noting that for the faith community in particular that 13 pastors had been lost to suicide over the past year.
Rev. Harold Moses Love, Jr., State Representative, District 58, graduated in 1994 with a Degree in Economics and Finance with a minor in Political Science from Tennessee State University, graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Divinity in 1998 with a Masters Degree in Theological Studies, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Administration at TSU. Since October 2002 he had been the Pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Nashville, and recently accepted the call to pastor the Lee Chapel A.M.E. Church. In October 2014, he was appointed and served a year as Presiding Elder of the South Nashville District of the A.M.E. Church. He is a 33° Mason and a Shriner. He is on the Board of Trustees for the TSU Foundation, the 18th Avenue Family Enrichment Center, Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), and Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI). Rep. Rev. Love emphasized that the level of service and compassion, “care and treatment” now offered to Caucasian mothers affected by the opioid epidemic should be matched for the African American mothers impacted by crack and other prevalent drugs in their community, and that he is committed to see that through in the state legislature.
Dr. Kevin Riggs has conducted ministry over 30 years, with more than 25 of those years as a pastor. In addition to his pastoral duties at Franklin Community Church, Dr. Riggs founded Franklin Community Development, an organization committed to be a conscience of the community.
Missy Wallace became inspired to study faith and work in 2013 after working in the non-profit sector and in corporate America for over 10 years each, realizing that work can be a part of God’s unfolding story if we allow him to guide it rather than our false idols. During academic divinity study, she wrote the proposal for the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work. Her participation in the Lifecycle conference revolved around her dedication to promulgating appreciation for the dignity of work.