Diversion First


Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova Pens Commentary on Diversion First
Help Us Define Diversion First - Submit Comments Through May 16
County Diversion First Team Nationally Recognized
Diversion First: Briefing, Progress-to-Date, and a Look to the Future

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About Diversion First

Diversion First is a collaborative effort to reduce the number of people with mental illness in the county jail by diverting low risk offenders experiencing a mental health crisis to treatment rather than bringing them to jail.

At the inaugural meeting of Diversion First, local leaders announced their commitment to set up a basic jail diversion program by January 1, 2016 with the following initial components in place, to be expanded and further developed over the next 3 to 5 years:

Merrifield Crisis Response Center (MCRC)
This center operates as an assessment site where police are able to transfer custody of nonviolent offenders who may need mental health services to a CIT-trained officer or deputy assigned there, instead of taking them to jail. In less than a year, Fairfax County went from having a limited diversion process to launching the Merrifield Crisis Response Center, mostly by leveraging existing resources. As of January 1, 2016, a police officer and/or deputy sheriff are on duty at the MCRC 21.5 hours a day, seven days a week to accept custody of a person experiencing a crisis so that the patrol officer can get back on the street quickly.

During the First Month of Diversion First (Jan. 1-31, 2016):
265 mental health investigations were conducted
by Fairfax County Police officers in the field.

  • 40% of those investigations (107) involved the Merrifield Crisis Response Center (MCRC)
    • 39% of those cases (42) involved Crisis Intervention Team (CIT-Trained) law enforcement
    • 62% of those cases (66) were informal hand-offs to MCRC Emergency Services Staff
    • 38% of those cases (41) were Emergency Custody Order police transports
      • 71% of these transport cases (29) involved the transfer of custody to an MCRC staffed officer/deputy

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training
CIT training is now ongoing for local law enforcement personnel. As part of Diversion First, Fairfax County police officers and deputy sheriffs are receiving 40 hours of state-certified Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to learn about the challenges of living with a mental illness and how to de-escalate crisis situations, both in the community and in the jail. CIT training is also aimed at changing the way law enforcement and the judicial system interact with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

After completing the training, CIT officers and deputies are better equipped to identify individuals who are experiencing an episode related to mental illness or disability.  They can make an informed decision to take persons to the Merrifield Crisis Response Center (MCRC) for assessment rather than arresting them and bringing them to the Adult Detention Center. Or they may be able to de-escalate the crisis and resolve the situation on the spot. MCRC is staffed by the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB), the county’s publicly funded mental health provider.

  • 90 people graduated the 40-hour CIT Training Course in 2015
  • 160 people are projected to graduate the CIT the 40-hour CIT Training Course in 2016 

Mobile Crisis Unit
The Diversion First initiative will add a second unit to increase the county's capacity to provide emergency mental health personnel in the field.

During the First Month of Diversion First (Jan. 1-31, 2016):
clients were served by Mobile Crisis Unit (MCU) staff (in addition to cases listed above)

  • 20% of those cases (18) were due to law enforcement involvement or referral

Mental Health Docket
The Diversion First initiative aims to establish a Mental Health Docket in the Fairfax County Court system.


More Information


If you have questions or would like to get involved with Diversion First, please contact Tony Castrilli in the Office of Public Affairs.


Diversion First

Need help for yourself or a loved one with a mental health issue?

If you are calling 9-1-1 for a mental health crisis or emergency, request a CIT-trained officer to respond.

24-Hour CSB Emergency Services
Phone: 703-573-5679 | TTY: 711

Diversion First
Partner Agencies

Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board

Fairfax County Police

Fairfax County Sheriff's Office

Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department

Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court

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