Tarrant County picks Fairmount for mental health center

Tarrant County plans to create a mental health prison diversion center in the Fairmount neighborhood.

Tarrant County plans to create a mental health prison diversion center in the Fairmount neighborhood.

atinsley@star-telegram.com

Tarrant County intends to house a mental health prison conversion center in the Fairmount neighborhood of Fort Worth, not far from JPS Hospital.

The site, which was purchased in August, was originally home to Good Life Senior Living. Members of the Fairmount Neighborhood Association and city councilor Elizabeth Beck had scheduled a town hall at the proposed site, at 812 W. Morphy St. Tuesday evening to discuss the purpose of the project and address potential concerns from residents.

The diversion center was announced in May with the goal of keeping low-level offenders out of prison. A county spokesperson said people will be allowed to stay at the center from 24 to 72 hours.

Beck, who said she supports the initiative, said that when she learned the center would be in a neighborhood, it was important for her to tell residents how it would work in order to alleviate concerns they might have. She said two people have reached out to their concerns, but the overwhelming response from the neighborhood has been one of support. Beck said people will not “break up” once they are released from the facility.

“I am thrilled that the county is truly taking this bold step forward in how we address homelessness, mental health and crime in the community,” Beck said. “But I understand how intimidating hearing the phrase ‘a prison transfer center,’ if you’re not educated about how it works, especially if you know, it happens in two buildings in their house.”

The county commissioners had originally intended to receive and present the charter to the advisory board at Tuesday’s meeting. During the public comment period on the agenda item, Leon Donisky, who said he lives only a street higher than the center’s intended location, told the commissioners that the county failed to reach people who live in the neighborhood with respect to the center.

Donisky said he and other neighbors had questions about the center’s impact on public safety and quality of life, and demanded that a neighbor be included in the consultation as “eyes and ears.”

“Again, ZIP Code 76104 currently has the lowest life expectancy in Texas,” Doniske said. “So my neighbors and I are very concerned and would like to know more about this.”

After the meeting, County Judge Glenn Whiteley said the county spoke with the Department of Health and Population and made sure the location was correctly identified, but posted notices about the center due to “NIMBYs.”

Whiteley said MHMR had group homes across the county, and although this was not classified as a group home, MHMR knew what it meant to be a “good neighbor.” He said the site was a good location for the center only because of the nature of its proximity to the hospital.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the charter of the center’s advisory board, with the addition of a neighborhood resident appointed by the area’s city council member. Beck represents Vermont.

This story was originally published December 14, 2021 4:37 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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