Supporting Individuals with Mental Health Conditions through Jail Diversion Programs

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has compiled information on a number of resources and initiatives regarding jail diversion programs in its latest issue of the newsletter Practicing Recovery: Recovery-Oriented Practices in Criminal Justice. Jail diversion programs aim to connect people who have a mental illness and have committed a crime to support services, keeping them out of jail while maintaining the public safety mission in communities.

Two well-tested methods include crisis intervention team (CIT) programs and mental health courts. The CIT model is a cooperative model between law enforcement and social services organizations, involving teams of clinicians, advocates, and family members providing training to law enforcement officers so that they can better assess and respond to situations involving persons with mental health conditions. Whenever possible, these specially trained officers will connect the person in crisis to the appropriate level of support rather than arresting the individual. Similarly, mental health courts connect individuals with diagnosed mental health conditions to community-based treatment programs rather than giving them jail time if they are charged with a crime.

Other organizations and agencies supporting diversion programs include SAMHSA’s GAINS Center, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the National Drug Court Resource Center, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Criminal Justice Diversion Program.

To view the full newsletter, read success stories related to CIT programs and mental health courts, and find other resources, click here.