Grant Funds Additional Staff for Diversion First Efforts
Sept. 28, 2016
Diversion First received a needed boost in law enforcement staffing at the Merrifield Crisis Response Center (MCRC). Since the program launched on January 1, 2016, Fairfax County Sheriff’s deputies and police officers have been assigned onsite at MCRC to accept custody of individuals who were diverted for assessment rather than arrested and brought to jail. A recent grant from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services has funded two more law enforcement positions to cover MCRC’s busiest times, 1:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. These positions are important because the faster the transfer of custody is able to be made, the sooner a person can get into treatment and the patrol officer can return to his or her duties on the street.
Diversion First offers alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low-level offenses. People needing diversion may also have a substance use disorder, which often co-occurs with mental illness. The goal is to intercede whenever possible to provide assessment, treatment or needed supports.
Fairfax Sheriff Stacey Kincaid is a member of the Diversion First Leadership Group. “With greater awareness in our community about the diversion option, we are seeing more law enforcement traffic at MCRC,” she said. “We cannot afford to delay treatment for people in crisis because of insufficient staffing. We are grateful to the Commonwealth for this generous grant and will continue to pursue all possible avenues of funding to support and grow Diversion First."
The additional staff were placed in service at the MCRC as of mid-September.