Law Enforcement and Behavioral Health Partnerships for Early Diversion

The Early Diversion grant program works to keep people with mental and/or substance use disorders out of the criminal justice system.

In September 2013, SAMHSA awarded three Law Enforcement and Behavioral Health Partnerships for Early Diversion grants. The purpose of this grant program is to:

“…address the behavioral health needs of people involved in, or at risk of involvement in, the criminal justice system by providing an array of community-based diversion services designed to keep individuals with behavioral health issues out of the criminal justice system while also addressing issues of public safety.”

Grantee Profiles

The GAINS Center provides technical assistance to these grantees to help them implement effective Early Diversion programs. If you are a recipient of an Early Diversion grant and would like to request technical assistance, contact the GAINS Center.

Project EDGE (Early Diversion, Get Engaged) - Colorado

Grant Applicant: Boulder County Sheriff’s Department

Implementing Agency: Mental Health Partners

Service Area: Boulder County

SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services Project Officer: Roxanne Castaneda

Project Period: September 30, 2013 – September 30, 2016

Project Description

Project EDGE (Early Diversion, Get Engaged) supports Boulder County’s early diversion transformation efforts. Project EDGE strives to “improve Boulder County’s ability to deliver a comprehensive, multi-agency, culturally responsive, evidence-based earliest point of diversion service for adults with behavioral health disorders at risk for criminal justice involvement.”

The project sponsors crisis intervention trainings for law enforcement to help them correctly identify when a person’s behavior is related to mental, substance use, or co-occurring disorders. Law enforcement is also trained on protocols for referring individuals who meet the program criteria.

Project EDGE uses peer support specialists and offers wraparound services to improve engagement and retention in behavioral health services among individuals at risk for criminal justice involvement. Mental Health Partners, the implementing agency, uses a comprehensive system of evidence-based approaches, including:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Crisis intervention training
  • Psychiatric/psychosocial rehabilitation
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Brief strengths-based case management for substance misuse
  • Integrated dual disorder treatment
  • Assertive community treatment
  • Seeking Safety, and others

The following services are offered to all Project EDGE participants:

  • Case management
  • Full psychiatric services, including psychotherapy and supportive counselling
  • Substance use and detoxification treatment
  • Benefits enrollment
  • Housing and employment support, including skills training

Through Mental Health Partners, mobile emergency response services are available to Boulder County law enforcement. This will increase access to services for people when they are in crisis and at their highest level of need.

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Specialized Crisis Intervention Teams for Young Adults (SCYA) Partnership - Connecticut

Grant Applicant: The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS)

Implementing Agency: Connecticut DMHAS and Advanced Behavioral Health (ABH)

Service Area: Connecticut

SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services Project Officer: Roxanne Castaneda

Project Period: September 30, 2013 – September 30, 2016

Project Description

The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) administers the Connecticut Early Diversion program. It plans to implement the Specialized Crisis Intervention Teams for Young Adults Partnership Program (SCYA).

To qualify for the program, individuals must be:

  • Young adults, ages 18 to 25
  • Considered a danger to self or others
  • Experiencing their first episode of psychosis
  • In the early stages of a drug or alcohol use disorder

DMHAS builds on relationships between criminal justice and behavioral health agencies that were developed in response to the creation of the Connecticut Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission. DMHAS adds representatives from the Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement (which conducts Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training in the state) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to make up the SCYA Partnership.

The SCYA Partnership assists CITs in effectively engaging young adults in appropriate treatment and preventing them from entering the criminal justice system. It makes changes in the training, procedures, and resources available to CITs to enhance their capacity to respond to young adults with mental health and/or substance use disorders.

Over the three-year grant period, DMHAS and its early diversion partners propose to serve 225 young adults, ages 18 to 25, with serious mental illness or co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. For approximately one quarter of these young adults, the experience will be their first encounter with public mental health services.

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Knoxville Early Diversion Program (KEDP) - Tennessee

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

Implementing Agency: Helen Ross McNabb Center (HRMC)

Service Area: Knoxville

SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services Project Officer: Roxanne Castaneda

Project Period: September 30, 2013 – September 30, 2016

Project Description

The Knoxville Early Diversion Program is a collaboration between the Helen Ross McNabb Center (HRMC), Knoxville Law Enforcement, and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), in coordination with community partners and stakeholders. The Knoxville Early Diversion partners provide screening, assessment, referral, and treatment to individuals at risk of entering the criminal justice system.

The diversion team is made up of early diversion liaisons and diversion case managers. The liaisons are available during high-volume times to work side by side with law enforcement. They intervene and effectively divert individuals at a police encounter. Once an individual encounters the diversion team, the liaison triages, assesses, and identifies possible treatment options. Individuals who need further assistance with accessing resources are assigned to an early diversion case manager. Case managers work with individuals to ensure that treatment options are reviewed, referrals are made, appointments are set, and all barriers to the individual engaging in or receiving treatment are identified and addressed.

The Knoxville Early Diversion Program’s goals include the following:

  • Divert 1,250 individuals from entering jail through early diversion liaison outreach during the three-year grant cycle
  • Link individuals to community resources
  • Address current gaps in services in the Knoxville community
  • Provide extensive case management services to 175 individuals during the full grant cycle

Early diversion will decrease the number of arrests and ultimately provide services to individuals who can be better served within the community through behavioral health treatment instead of through incarceration.

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Last Updated: 08/20/2015