Jail diversion pilot programs show positive outcomes

Progress is being made in efforts to provide crucial care to residents with mental health issues to help keep them out of the criminal justice system, Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said.

In 2014, the Mental Health Diversion Council, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, launched jail diversion pilot programs that aim to prevent individuals with mental health issues from being incarcerated. The programs direct individuals to services they need before they come into contact with the judicial system.

The pilot programs have been operating in Barry, Berrien, Kalamazoo, Kent, Marquette, Monroe, Oakland, and Wayne counties, helping enhance collaboration between community mental health providers and law enforcement.

“We’re continuing to make important progress in reducing risk and providing care to those in our communities struggling with mental health issues,” said Calley, who chairs the diversion council.

“We hope to prevent unnecessary incarceration through these pilot programs by connecting individuals to the services they need.”

To gauge program successes and areas for improvement, Michigan State University will be conducting a series of evaluations of the programs. MSU recently completed the first in a series of studies, showing that:
About 22 percent of those entering Michigan jails have a serious mental illness

More than 200 officers have been trained in crisis intervention techniques that have enhanced safety during police encounters and helped better direct individuals to mental health resources.
More than 1,000 individuals within the counties with pilot programs received mental health services while in jail.

The goal is to establish diversion efforts at various points in the criminal justice system, such as initial encounters with law enforcement, detention, jails and courts, reentry and community corrections.

The Mental Health Diversion Council will continue working with pilot counties on ways to strengthen the programs and find new methods that could be used statewide to encourage diversion. The ultimate goal is to expand diversion programs to all counties in Michigan.

For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/mentalhealth.