State to get evaluations pay request from county
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Feb 12, 2013 | 745 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bradley County Commission will ask state representatives to introduce legislation changing current laws dictating what counties are required to pay for mental evaluations for those arrested for misdemeanor offenses.

A resolution out of the finance committee, which would have asked the state to take over payment of any misdemeanor mental evaluation other than outpatient evaluation, was set for a vote at the Commission’s next voting session. After Monday’s work session, the document will be revised before the vote.

Fourth District Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said he talked to state legislators about the issues during a recent trip to Nashville for another matter. Lowe said lawmakers have until Friday to file bills for this legislative session.

“They are willing to have something on the queue on this by Friday. However, if it has a fiscal note on it, it’s not going to happen,” Lowe said.

Instead, Lowe suggested asking for a limit to be placed on the days the county pays for treatment of those determined unfit to stand trial.

In a recent case, even after charges were dropped, the county was charged for services determined necessary by Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute. Lowe said this also needs to be addressed at the state level.

“It always amazes me that we can have a $40,000 mental health bill on a case that has a maximum fine of $1,000,” Lowe said.

The county recently received a bill for 77 days of service. Lowe said limiting these longer evaluations is a good first step to addressing the issue. In-patient mental evaluations are limited to 30 days. If treatment is needed to have a person become fit for trial, there is not a limit on the days of service, Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg said.

“I think the public defender’s office and the district attorney’s office [were] not really fully aware of some of these changes in the law (in 2009) and what burden it was placing on the counties,” 1st District Commissioner Ed Elkins said. “All indications are they will take a harder look at requesting these outpatient evaluations.”

Outpatient evaluations are done locally at Hiwassee Mental Health Care Center and cost $600. In-patient evaluations are done at Moccasin Bend in Chattanooga. These evaluations cost $450 a night.

Elkins said he thought the outpatient option should be used first.

Lowe and Elkins worked with Freiberg after the meeting to draft a resolution to outline what the Commission is asking the state legislatures to do. Lowe said state legislators will hold a spot for the bill as long as they know some direction from the county is coming.

The resolution will be voted on at the Feb. 19 voting session.

- Family Promise of Bradley Country made a presentation to the Commission during Monday’s work session. Representatives from the nonprofit highlighted the need to get the word out about the services they offer in the community.

- The Commission also heard a report from environmental officer Joe Renner. Commissioners discussed what could be done to clean up two abandoned properties. Renner said he had spent a lot of time trying to find an owner to issue a citation to clean up the property.

One of the properties will be coming up at the next Bradley County sale of properties delinquent on property taxes.

A second property with a nearly burned down house on it would not be a part of the sale for about three years. Although no owner can be found, the properties are still considered private property until after the tax sale. Commission Chair Louie Alford asked Renner to meet with building inspector Tina Bishop and Freiberg to determine the cost to clean up the properties.

- Alford also said the Commission should consider the county’s option for animal control, instead of simply letting the contract with the city renew.