Two new drop-off diversion centers will provide short-term stabilizing services for 2,400 people per year, giving police officers a much needed alternative to arrest and jail for individuals with mental health needs who do not pose a risk to public safety
Mayor de Blasio announced that the City is investing nearly $90 million for two new diversion centers scheduled to open next year. These diversion centers will offer short-term stabilizing services for individuals with mental health and substance use needs, providing police officers the option to bring these individuals to a diversion center as an alternative to arrest. These centers will be able to divert approximately 2,400 people annually who would otherwise be arrested on low-level charges.
The diversion centers are the final piece of the Mayor’s Action Plan on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System. Comprised of 24 interlocking initiatives that stretch across the entire criminal justice system, the Action Plan has helped to reduce the number of people with a mental health diagnosis in city jails by 7 percent in the last two years. The new diversion centers could reduce this number even further.
“These two new diversion centers will provide police officers with a new option for responding to the needs of some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers – instead of making an arrest, police will be able to connect people to the mental health or substance abuse care they need,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Safe alternatives to arrest that give people the tools they need to get back on track are key to our criminal justice reforms and bringing down our jail population.”
“Too many people in our jails do not belong there and can be traumatized by the experience. Those who are struggling with mental illness, substance misuse or addiction don't need to be incarcerated. – they need treatment,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leadsThriveNYC, the city’s mental health reform efforts. “Diversion centers will help people who are not well by connecting them to treatment that can transform their lives.”
“Too often, New Yorkers who struggle with mental health and substance use issues end up in our criminal justice system, when the best path is to connect them to treatment,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Opening Diversion Centers builds on the City's commitment to expand mental health services for all residents. I commend Mayor de Blasio for taking a public health approach to reform the criminal justice system.”
“This will provide additional resources for the public, and another tool for the police,” said NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill. “The goal is that these centers will provide mental health services that were previously unavailable to those who need them most.”
“For too long, police in New York City and across the country have had very limited options when responding to individuals with behavioral health needs whose behavior violates the law," said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. "Police have had to choose between an arrest, which can exacerbate health concerns instead of address them, or an emergency room, which often requires that an officer spend hours at a hospital instead of addressing pressing public safety needs. New York City's significant investment in two new diversion centers is a key piece of solving this problem. For those who do not pose a risk to public safety, officers will now have an effective way to connect individuals with stabilizing care instead of making an arrest. This will improve the fairness of our justice system by ensuring that individuals who need help get help and thus contribute further to the safe reduction in our jail population.”
The centers will offer a range of clinical and non-clinical services, including overnight shelter and basic need services, such as food, laundry and showers. Clinical services will include health and behavioral health assessments, counseling, advocacy, peer-to-peer engagement services, medication, medically supervised substance use stabilization and withdrawal management services, and naloxone training and distribution.
The centers will operate 24/7 with a no-refusal policy for individuals brought in by the police. Length of stay will vary from hours to days depending on the person’s needs, with a cap of five days. When there is clinical need, such as more supervision of withdrawal services, the stay can be extended to ten days. Once the client is stabilized, the centers will connect them to healthcare, social services and other supports. The centers will not be used as a replacement for permanent housing or long-term shelter for homeless individuals.
The City will award approximately $90 million to two non-profit vendors, Project Renewal and Samaritan Daytop Village, to operate the diversion centers for the next ten years. The contracts will be overseen by the NYC Health Department. Both vendors have decades of experience serving New Yorkers with substance use issues or mental illness. The contracts will begin in June and September. The initiative includes funding and programmatic support from the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the State Office of Mental Health.
The model of the new diversion centers was developed by the NYC Health Department, in consultation with partner agencies. Through ThriveNYC, the most comprehensive mental health plan of any city or state in the country, these centers will offer an innovative alternative to jail or hospitalization for individuals suffering with behavioral health conditions. The diversion centers are also a paired strategy with the City’s ongoing effort to expand training for police officers that will enable them to better recognize the behaviors and symptoms of mental illness and substance use. In the last two years, as part of the Action Plan on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System, the NYPD has integrated Crisis Intervention Training into the police academy curriculum and is on track to provide stand-alone 36-hour training for 5,500 officers by early 2018.
The two centers are expected to open in early and late 2018, respectively. The facilities will be located in two areas with need and a high concentration of police officers who have been trained in how to deescalate interactions with individuals with behavioral health needs. Specific locations will be announced later this year.
“Project Renewal is proud to have been selected to develop and manage a critically needed diversion center. We applaud Mayor de Blasio for his innovative actions to improve New York City's approach to serving people with mental health issues. The two diversion centers show New York City is fully committed to treating mental health and substance use disorders as health issues, rather than criminal justice matters. We will bring the same dedication to care and compassion for our clients to this program that have been the hallmark of Project Renewal since its founding 50 years ago. The diversion center will afford us another opportunity to restore hope and renew the lives of even more New Yorkers,” said Mitchell Netburn, President and CEO of Project Renewal.
“Samaritan Daytop Village is pleased to do our part to reduce admissions to Rikers Island by diverting people brought to us by the police department who are experiencing non-emergency psychiatric and drug use issues and instead providing crisis intervention and treatment to promote stability,” said Tino Hernandez, President and CEO of Samaritan Daytop Village.
Over the last 20 years, New York City has experienced the sharpest drops in crime anywhere in the nation, while also substantially reducing jail populations. However, on any given day in New York City jails, approximately 11 percent of those detained have a serious mental illness, 40 percent from a broader array of mental issues, and more than 85 percent have substance use disorders. Despite the high percentages, the overall number of individuals in city jails has fallen in the last two years since implementation of the Mayor’s Action Plan on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice system began.