Relationship Between Crime And Mental Health Being Addressed In The Dexter Area

Washtenaw County leaders have announced plans to form the Washtenaw County Mental Health Criminal Justice Diversion Advisory Council.

The announcement comes less than a week after a gunman with a history of mental illness killed 26 people in Texas.

The new council will address “the needs of those in Washtenaw County impacted by mental health and/or substance use disorders and are at high-risk of potential contact with the Criminal Justice System” the Sheriff’s Department announced Friday.

Diversion Council members will be drawn from:

  • Mental health and substance use disorder service consumers.
  • Mental health and substance use disorder service providers and advocates.
  • Representatives from the major Health Care Systems.
  • Representatives from all components of the Criminal Justice System.
  • Elected/Appointed Officials.

The focus of the Diversion Council is prevention.  In their announcement, the Sheriff’s office said, “The focus of the Diversion Council will be to develop a comprehensive community-based diversion system for low level, low-risk offenders suffering from severe mental health and/or substance use disorders.”

In addition to implementing the nationally recognized “Stepping Up” initiative,  the Diversion Council’s will be identification of desired community based outcomes, development of comprehensive strategies and designing a structure that serves as a safety net and diversion from the Criminal Justice System.

The initial metrics for the Diversion Council are:

  • Reducing the number of low-risk individuals presenting severe mental health and/or substance use disorders in our jail.
  • Reducing the length of stay in jail for low-risk individuals presenting severe mental health and/or substance use disorder.
  • Reducing the rate of re-incarceration of low-risk individuals presenting with severe mental health and substance use disorders.

The Diversion Council will develop a system that provides alternative paths for individuals suffering from mental health issues and/or substance use disorders by providing needed treatment and support instead of incarceration.

The Sheriff’s office states, “The Diversion Council is committed to addressing root-cause issues in the community, keeping families together, and helping to build strong and sustainable Washtenaw County communities.”

The council selection process is in development at this time, but will be announced soon.

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