State Awards Funding to Expand Diversion First

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB), in collaboration with Diversion First partners, has been awarded more than $624,000 to expand its Diversion First Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The grant will fund two law enforcement officers to help staff the CSB’s Merrifield Crisis Response Center (MCRC) over the coming two-year period. The grant funds were awarded by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services (DBHDS).

Diversion First is a collaborative effort that 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. The goal is to intercede when possible to provide assessment, treatment or needed supports. Diversion First is unique because it includes a wide range of stakeholders: mental health professionals, public safety, courts, elected officials and human services. A person with mental illness or developmental disabilities who comes into contact with law enforcement can, in appropriate cases, be brought to the MCRC, Fairfax County’s new therapeutic crisis assessment site, en lieu of jail, to receive a mental health assessment. The law enforcement officer who brings the individual to the MCRC can transfer custody to an onsite Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained officer, and the individual can then be assessed and assisted by CSB emergency mental health staff.

In the first five months since the January 2016 launch of Diversion First, law enforcement officers transported 610 people to the MCRC. Of those, 168 had potential criminal charges but were diverted from potential arrest to mental health services.

CIT training helps officers learn about and recognize mental illness and how to help de-escalate crisis situations. Residents are now asked to request CIT trained officers when they call 9-1-1 with a mental health related crisis. To date, over 160 officers have received the extensive CIT training.

Want to stay up to date with the latest news about Diversion First? Sign up for the Diversion First Listserv. Local residents are also welcome to attend a Diversion First stakeholders meeting; the next meeting will be July 11, 7-9 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center.

June 29, 2016

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