Over the last 30 years police officers have become the first line of contact for people with untreated mental illness and other psychological problems. Police officers, however, neither have sufficient clinical training to identify and manage these situations nor sufficient resources to adequately support people to address their complex problems. As a result, these citizens often require repeated attention from police, and never receive effective treatment to resolve their underlying problems. Jail Diversion is a formal, cooperative approach between police officers and mental health professionals that focuses on creating alternatives to arrest, booking, and jail detention for people whose minor criminal behavior is directly due to mental illness or substance abuse.
The Watertown Police Department has entered into contract with Advocates Inc (the Regional Crisis Center) for pre-arrest jail diversion. In September 2007, the Watertown Police Department was awarded the Pre-Arrest Jail Diversion Grant for Massachusetts Residents with a Mental Illness or Emotional Disturbance. This grant provides support to hire and assign a full-time mental health crisis counselor from Advocates Inc who now works onsite at the police station. This clinician accompanies officers while on patrol, providing a joint response to calls for service. The clinician, in cooperation with the officers, evaluates the subject’s mental health and substance abuse needs and when appropriate engages the person in a treatment plan that will avoid arrest and further involvement with the criminal justice system.
This program has been extremely helpful in reducing repeat calls for service, and has provided a valuable resource to conduct follow-up visits with persons with mental illness.
If you have any questions regarding the Jail Diversion Program, please contact: