Fairmount neighbors meet on Tarrant jail diversion center

The new Tarrant County Mental Health Prison Conversion Center will be located inside a former large living facility in Vermont off West Magnolia Street.

The new Tarrant County Mental Health Prison Conversion Center will be located inside a former large living facility in Vermont off West Magnolia Street.

Those responsible for managing the upcoming Tarrant County mental health prison conversion center met with residents Tuesday night to discuss the center and its impact on the Vermont neighborhood.

The idea behind the center, planned for 812 W. Due to a lack of access to mental health care, experts said, prisons have become mental health institutions. Officials have praised the center as a way to help the cause, and Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks said Tarrant County could do better.

A crowd of more than 50 people attended the city hall on the planned site, which is former Senior living facility. The meeting, which was coordinated by Fort Worth City Council member Elizabeth Beck and the Fairmount Neighborhood Association, was intended to answer questions and allay concerns about the center.

Police officials have said that no one will be taken to the center if they are deemed a danger to the community, and the police have a list of qualifications they must have to bring someone there. There won’t be big signs that the facility is a prison mental health diversion center, and the county is building a garage in the back for police cars to discreetly bring people in. The building will not be closed.

Officials said people in the neighborhood will not be released, and there are plans for additional police patrols.

People will not be at the center in the long term, but will be linked to more permanent resources to get them back on their feet, said Susan Garnett, executive director of My Health, My Resources in Tarrant County. Officials said problems that residents already experienced in the neighborhood such as homelessness and mental health crises could be resolved.

Earlier today, county commissioners unanimously approved adding a living representative to the charter of the center’s advisory board.

Officials said the center is intended to serve the entire Tarrant County, so that people from all county municipalities can be received.

The answers to questions about the location of the center from an audience member were not immediately clear. The new center will be just a rocky throw away from the business district and down the road from De Zavala Primary School. The constant concern that has arisen is that the center will complicate the problems already seen in the community.

Another resident asked officials how much community outreach had been done because the process felt rushed. Brooks told them that each neighborhood would be able to point out reasons why the neighborhood in which they live is not a good location for such a center, but that NIMBY has not been a good driver of public policy.

The crowd responded audibly to Brooks’ comment with the controversy, with one saying that was not intended. Garnett told crowd officials they wanted to know about neighborhood issues and encouraged residents to speak up when they had them.

Another member of the community stood up and cried, telling the crowd that she wished the criminalization of people who needed help would stop. She wished that people would attend city meetings with equal ferocity to advocate for those who needed these kinds of resources.

This story was originally published December 15, 2021 1:45 pm.

Abby Church profile picture

The Abbey Church covers the Tarrant County government for the Star-Telegram. She earned a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing from James Madison University, where she was an editor for its award-winning student newspaper, The Breeze. Abby comes to Texas after telling stories across Virginia and North Carolina. Send news tips by email at achurch@star-telegram.com, by phone or text at 817-390-7131, or on Twitter @abbschurch.

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