West Tennessee Forensic Services


Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services(TDMHSAS):

TDMHSAS is a statewide department located in Nashville TN. One of TDMHSAS' programs is the Forensic Evaluation Services Program. TDMHSAS contracts with WTFS to provide Forensic Services in Shelby County. WTFS Forensic Team is designated by the Commissioner of TDMHSAS to provide Mental Evaluations (MEs) as a "friend of the court." The Forensic Team is in a position where the mental health professional "sizes the defendant up" and then tells the truth of the results of the evaluation.

The staff at TDMHSAS is responsible for setting and monitoring program standerds as well as training WTFS team members. TDMHSAS provides Initial Training to new staff members and then certifies the staff member to conduct Forensic Assessments. In order to maintain this Certification, team members must attend Re-Certification Training at least every other year. WTFS is compliant with the standerds and training set forth by TDMHSAS.



State Criminal Courts:

WTFS is responsible for responding to the orders of all Criminal Courts (CC). There are currently 10 TN State Criminal Courts in Shelby County. Judges are elected for 8-year terms.

The CC Judges typically order the evaluation of a defendant's Competency to Proceed with the Disposition of the Case, which is also referred to as Competency to Stand Trial (COMP) and Mental Condition at time of Alleged Offense (MCAT). Mental Condition evaluations offer an opinion regarding the defendant's sanity at the time of the alleged offense, and/or an opinion regarding the defendant's "Diminished Capacity" at the time of the alleged offense. Recently we have received Orders to evaluate a defendant's Competency to Comprehend the Miranda Warning. Cases include capital cases, felonies, and misdemeanors where a jury trial is required.

We communicate the results of our evaluations in a letter addressed to the Criminal Court Judge who ordered the evaluation. The original letter is sent to the Judge through the CC Clerks' Office. Copies of the letters are also sent to the Defense Attorney, the Prosecuting Attorney, and TDMHSAS.

Tennessee State Criminal Courts Website

Shelby County General Sessions Court:

There are currently 10 General Sessions Criminal Courts (GS). The GS Judges order the evaluation of a defendant's competency to proceed or stand trial and they also can order the evaluation of a defendant's mental condition at the time of an alleged offense (including Sanity and Diminished Capacity). While all cases start in Sessions Court, most cases disposed of in Sessions Court are misdemeanors, though some are felonies.

Shelby County General Sessions Court Website


Attorney General's office:

The Attorney General (AG) of Shelby County is elected to the position every eight years. AGs represent the "State". Their job is to accuse a "defendant" and then prove wrongdoing to a Judge and/or a Jury. The AGs rely on the WTFS team to conduct, complete, and communicate the results of the evaluations. Before team members share specific case information with the AGs, the AG must provide documentation of a Court Order signed by a CC Judge that gives WTFS staff permission to share case information with the AGs.

Tennessee Attorney General's Office Website

Public Defender's Office:

WTFS team members' work closely with the Public Defender's Staff to insure that the Public Defender's is made aware of a defendant's mental health issues and how these issues relate to the typical questions addressed in our reports.

Shelby County Public Defenders Website

Private Attorneys:

A number of attorneys in private practice utilize the services of WTFS. WTFS team members' work closely with the Private Attorneys to insure that the private attorney is made aware of a defendant's mental health issues and how these issues relate to the typical questions addressed in our Mental Evaluations reports.


Shelby County Jail:

The Shelby County Jail is a temporary holding facility for defendants facing charges in criminal courts who can not afford to pay their bail. The WTFS team works with Deputy Jailers who provide protection when needed. They also work closely with the jail medical staff to insure that defendants receive medical and mental health care when needed.

Shelby County Sheriff's Website

Memphis Mental Health Institute (MMHI):

MMHI is a state operated regional mental health institute that receives defendants for further inpatient forensic evaluations. WTFS refers defendants to MMHI who are charged with misdemeanors or felonies, who do not need additional security and are not considered escape risks. WTFS staff provides full disclosure of all information that is available to MMHI staff.

MMHI Website

Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute-Forensic Services Program (FSP):

FSP is the only secure mental health institute in the state of Tennessee. They accept referrals from anywhere in the state. WTFS refers defendants that are considered a flight or safety risk to FSP. Defendants who are management challenges are also transferred to FSP. WTFS staff consults with FSP staff so they know the reason the request for additional security is necessary.

FSP Website

Western Mental Health Institute (WMHI):

WMHI is a mental health institute located in Bolivar Tennessee. They serve as the Regional Mental Health institute for the West Tennessee region except for Shelby County residents who are hospitalized at MMHI. They have a designated Forensic Unit that primarily serves forensic patients. Defendants from rural West Tennessee are referred to WMHI for mental health treatment.

WMHI Website