Boulder County will soon offer two new programs to help people with mental health or addiction problems stay out of jail. The Boulder County DA, Michael Dougherty, stated that too many people are entering the criminal justice system because of a mental health issue. These programs aim to address that problem starting in early 2019. Grants from the U.S. Department of Justice will fund both programs.

 

Mental Health Pre-File Diversion Program

The first program targets low-level offenders who have mental health struggles, created to identify them when they enter the system. People with mental health issues are commonly charged with offenses like trespass, disorderly conduct, and theft. Although Colorado has mental health courts, those require defendants to enter a plea, which can affect the defendant’s future. This program ideally targets individuals before the DA files charges.

Opioid Abuse Diversion and Navigation Program

This program will attempt to connect people addicted to opioids with treatment and recovery services soon after their arrest. The county will screen everyone arrested for opioid use in conjunction with a criminal risk assessment at booking. They will offer services before trial to people who are in jail, and connect them to treatment providers once they are out of jail. They hope that getting people the help they need will permanently move them out of the criminal justice system.

Benefits to the community

Diverting low-level offenders to a place where they can get the help they need will free up necessary space in the jails for more serious offenders. In addition, these programs offer another avenue to identify and help those in the community struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. Sometimes mental health and substance abuse issues go hand-in-hand, which raises the stakes even higher.

Building on success

If you or someone you know has been arrested in Boulder County, a diversion program may be the right solution to your situation to get needed help and protect your legal future. These programs won’t be the first diversion programs in Colorado. Nine diversion programs are functioning in Colorado in 2018, including one in Boulder County.

Different entities run these programs, but the goal is the same for each—to provide an avenue for you or your loved one to complete certain conditions or a program aimed at the problem raised by the criminal allegations. Once you meet the conditions of the program, the county generally dismisses the charges. These programs have the benefit of addressing the cause of the allegations as well as the needs of the victims, while giving you or your loved one an opportunity to restore your legal status. The state has considered these programs successful and plans to expand them in the future.