DMHS awards 4 contracts to divert people with mental illness from jail into treatmentFour agencies in four counties were awarded the contracts after an open, competitive bidding process, Commissioner Jennifer Velez announced to the Ocean County Human Services Advisory Committee.
“There are many times when proper intervention and treatment are much more appropriate than jail for someone with mental illness,” Velez said. “We also want to help people get the services they need that might prevent them from participating in illegal behavior.”
Some of the counties will use the money for treatment programs aimed at preventing people with mental illnesses from entering the criminal justice system.
Other counties will identify and divert individuals with mental illness after they have been arrested. Points at which individuals can be diverted include: at or immediately after booking into jail, before the filing of formal charges or release from pre-trial detention with condition of participation in treatment.
Services involving the courts, jail and mental health systems will be established to successfully reintegrate people with mental illnesses into the community following their release from jail. These services are intended to assist offenders in acquiring the life skills needed to successfully re-enter the community.
The following agencies received the contracts. Greater Trenton Behavioral Healthcare - $250,000; Preferred Behavioral Healthcare of New Jersey representing a collaborative which also includes St. Barnabas at Kimball Medical Center and Ocean Mental Health Services - $250,000; Steininger Behavioral Healthcare representing a consortium of organizations in Camden County - $250,000; Cumberland County Guidance Center in cooperation with the County Jail Diversion Task Force, $135,000.
Mercer County :
Through its Coming Home Project, which currently provides re-entry services in conjunction with the Mercer County Correction Center , Greater Trenton Behavioral Healthcare will begin with post-booking diversion services for arrested individuals. Intervention will occur at three potential points; following booking when the individual is taken into custody and detained at the Mercer County jail; at the initial appearance/arraignment. Critical treatment, housing, employment and social services will be arranged in order to address issues that might lead to re-offending. It is expected that 50 individuals will be screened for services and 30 enrolled in the first year.
Ocean County :
The Jail Diversion Committee, a subcommittee of the Ocean County Mental Health Board has been meeting to plan this Jail Diversion Program since 2006. In addition to key mental health providers, the Sheriff's Department, Department of Corrections, Prosecutor's Office, Public Defender, County Jail Mental Health Services and Board of Social Services have all agreed to collaborate in the effort. The Jail Diversion Project will focus on pre and post booking. Pre-booking will involve law enforcement and emergency services at the point of contact. Post arrest diversion can either be at initial hearing or detention, at the courts or Ocean County Jail, or through the request of prosecutors, defense attorneys and/or mental health providers. Through the use of assessments and recommendation at the earliest possible intervention, a mental health disposition rather then a criminal justice disposition will be sought. The project seeks to serve about 70 individuals in the first year and 160 annually.
Camden County :
Camden County has a fully developed Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), which began operating in November. Through the CIT program, specially trained police officers may de-escalate a situation after being called to the scene and return the person to their home or refer to mental health service; they may also coordinate with the Steininger Crisis Community Response Center if more intense services are needed. Diversion may be accomplished through post booking deferred prosecution through the Camden County Judicial Processing Unit, which will screen defendants for mental health and substance abuse issues providing an opportunity to have their charges dropped or reduced by participating in a program for a specified period of time and successfully completing program requirements. Steininger expects to screen 150 and serve 100 in the first year with 275 screened and 150 served annually.
Cumberland County .
The Cumberland County Guidance Center , in collaboration with a county consortium including the Cumberland County Corrections Department, County Prosecutor 's Office, Drug and Alcohol Services, and South Jersey Healthcare will provide re-entry services for persons with severe mental illness incarcerated at the county jail.
This will include identification of eligible participants, pre-release planning and linking to a continuum of care committed to through the county Jail Diversion Task Force. Coordination of services will ensure that the jail will report release dates and plans for inmates so that critical mental health and social services can be delivered upon community re-entry. It is expected that approximately 40 individuals with severe mental illness will be served in the initial year of the project.