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Jail Diversion Program announces restructuring

by | Jul 28, 2021 | News, Police & Fire

The Co-Response Jail Diversion Program, of which the Hopkinton Police Department is a member, announced Wednesday that the program has been restructured and will offer increased intervention services.

The Jail Diversion Program (JDP), operated by the Framingham-based community services nonprofit Advocates, aims to re-direct individuals committing non-violent offenses from the criminal justice system to more appropriate community-based behavioral health services. A specially trained crisis clinician from Advocates, Ashley Scionti, responds to calls for service and 911 calls providing immediate, on-scene de-escalation, assessment and referrals for individuals in crisis.

The restructured JDP includes the Hopkinton, Holliston and Sherborn police departments, with Ashland no longer a part of the group. This means Scionti will have more time available to the three remaining departments, Advocates stated. She is scheduled to work in each town 1-2 times per week but is available to all communities five days a week. When Scionti or another clinician is not available, the Advocates Psychiatric Emergency Services team ensures timely access to services for the participating police agencies 24/7.

“As our officers worked beside the Jail Diversion Program clinicians, we saw a paradigm shift in the way our department perceived and handled mental health crisis calls,” HPD Chief Joseph Bennett said in a press release. “Through their scope of work, our clinicians have assisted us in identifying those who may be experiencing a crisis and in delivering rapid mental health services to those in need. As a direct result, we have had fewer mental health calls result in arrests and more specialized care administered to our community members.”

In its most recent quarterly report, covering January-March 2021, Advocates reports having had 201 cases referred to JDP clinicians from the four police departments (including Ashland). During that time, nine individuals with mental illness were diverted from arrest, Advocates reports, claiming an estimated cost savings of $22,680 ($2,520 per arrest event) to the criminal justice system.

The JDP also reduces the number of individuals referred to local hospital emergency departments, with a total of 20 individuals in the first quarter diverted from unnecessary hospital admissions due to the presence of a JDP clinician on the scene, Advocates states. As a result, the estimated health care cost savings within the first quarter was $80,000, or $4,000 per emergency department diversion.

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