Deflection and Diversion Overview

Deflection and diversion programs aim to redirect individuals with behavioral health issues away from the criminal-legal system and towards appropriate community-based treatment and support services. These practices have shown promise in reducing recidivism, improving mental health outcomes, and fostering public safety. Some of the most promising practices include:

  1. Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT): CIT programs involve training law enforcement officers to respond effectively to mental health crises. Officers learn to recognize signs of mental illness, de-escalate situations, and connect individuals with appropriate treatment and support services.

  2. Co-Responder Models: In this approach, mental health professionals are paired with law enforcement officers to respond to behavioral health-related calls. This collaboration helps address the individual’s immediate needs and ensures they are connected with relevant resources.

  3. Mobile Crisis Units: These units consist of mental health professionals who can be dispatched to respond to crisis situations in the community. They provide on-the-spot assessments, crisis intervention, and referrals to appropriate services.

  4. Pre-Arrest Diversion Programs: These programs aim to divert individuals with behavioral health issues away from the criminal-legal system before arrest. They often involve law enforcement officers connecting individuals in crisis to community-based treatment services as an alternative to arrest and incarceration.

  5. Mental Health Courts: These specialized court programs focus on individuals with mental health disorders who have been charged with a crime. The goal is to connect the individual with treatment and support services as part of a court-supervised plan, often resulting in reduced or dismissed charges upon successful completion.

  6. Sequential Intercept Model (SIM): The SIM is a framework for communities to identify and address opportunities for deflection and diversion at various points within the criminal-legal system. It includes five intercept points: community services, initial detention and court hearings, jails and courts, reentry, and community corrections.

  7. Peer Support Programs: In these programs, individuals with lived experience of mental illness and/or substance use disorders serve as support for others going through similar challenges. They can provide guidance, encouragement, and assistance in navigating the behavioral health system.

  8. Stepping Up Initiative: This national initiative aims to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in jails. Participating counties commit to collecting data, developing strategies, and implementing evidence-based practices to improve outcomes for individuals with behavioral health issues in the criminal-legal system.

  9. Expanding Access to Treatment: Ensuring that individuals have access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment is essential. This includes increasing the availability of community-based services and addressing barriers to care, such as stigma, lack of insurance, and limited provider networks.

  10. Collaboration and Coordination: Building strong partnerships between criminal-legal system stakeholders, behavioral health providers, and community organizations is crucial. This can enhance communication, streamline processes, and ensure a more effective and efficient response to individuals with behavioral health issues in the criminal-legal system.

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