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Boulder County to pilot mental health division

 


Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, and the Boulder Public Defender’s Office are leading an effort to form a Mental Health Diversion Pilot Program in Boulder County.

This program would divert low-level offenders out of the jail — prior to any charges being filed — to provide them with mental health treatment. Dougherty has agreed to defer the filing of charges on individuals in need of treatment.

The program is designed to enhance systems support and treatment of the contributing factors driving criminal behavior. The project’s goals are to reduce the number of post-arrest individuals experiencing behavioral health disorders who are being processed through the criminal justice system, and to increase the number that are diverted to behavioral health treatment, and provide those individuals with the support necessary to prevent recidivism and achieve positive life outcomes.

Boulder is one of four sites in Colorado, selected under SB18-249, to pilot a Mental Health Diversion Project, and the first to get its pilot underway.

Members of the task force formed to oversee this project had their first meeting in March, where they discussed eligibility requirements based on the criminal charges faced by an individual, and reviewed assessment tools. The legislation will provide the funding for this project and the treatment of offenders.

Next steps for the task force include defining a target population and determining a screening and referral process, as well as working to identify treatment providers with the resources and ability to treat eligible offenders.

“I am committed to enhancing public safety for Boulder — including through innovative approaches,” Dougherty said. “Too many people who end up in our criminal justice system are struggling with significant mental health issues. I strongly believe it is appropriate for my office to decline to file charges, so that an individual can receive treatment as early as possible — rather than be processed through the criminal justice system. Sheriff Joe Pelle’s work with the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice helped bring this project to Boulder. I am excited to partner with him on this important project.”

Pelle added that the diversions will help keep the jail from housing inmates who would be better served in treatment.

“As a member of the State’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, I have been working hard with colleagues to divert people with mental health issues from the justice system when appropriate,” Pelle said. “Diverting low level offenders from the criminal justice system into treatment is one step in a continuum of efforts to reduce the impact of mentally ill offenders on our jail and courts, and to achieve better outcomes for the offenders. I’m pleased to work in a progressive county with our courts, D.A., mental health providers, and public defender to pilot a program like this. I hope very much for its success.”

 

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