The Arlington Police Department Jail Diversion Program (APD JDP), created in 2010, is a collaboration between the police department and a mental health clinician from The Edinburg Center. Together, we focus on creating alternatives to arrest and jail detention for individuals who come in contact with the police and could benefit from mental health and substance abuse services or other social services.
The JDP aims to provide alternatives to arrest, booking, and jail detention for people who have behavioral health needs through the following four-pronged approach:
- Intervention: The Jail Diversion Clinician (JDC) joins APD officers on mental health-related calls for service as a co-response team. On scene, the team works to determine the best approach for the individual. If a crime has been committed, the JDC and the officer assess whether the individual is appropriate to divert from arrest into treatment. If diverted, or if no crime has been committed, the JDC works with the individual to identify needs, connect the person to hospital- or community-based treatment, and arrange for continued follow-up.
- Follow up: In addition to on-site identification, the JDC regularly identifies people who could benefit from follow-up contact by reviewing APD data and communicating with community providers. Once people are identified, the JDC performs outreach and follow up, which may involve an officer if appropriate, to provide ongoing support, treatment referrals, and connection to additional services and community resources.
- Training/Education: APD delivers ongoing, specialized training on behavioral health topics using multiple methods such as presentations, reference materials, and in-house web-based instruction. Through these varied approaches, law enforcement personnel are educated in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), recognizing signs and symptoms of mental illness, how to apply context-specific crisis management and intervention techniques to defuse stressed situations, suicide risk and prevention, common psychiatric medications and their usage, Narcan, substance use, autism, Alzheimer’s and neuro/cognitive disorders, domestic violence, veterans’ services, hoarding, and relevant laws and statutes.
- Community Partnerships: The JDC serves as a centralized point of contact for care coordination for people who have behavioral health needs. The clinician maintains strong interagency partnerships by attending community meetings and serving on multi-agency committees. While key partners meet on a consistent basis to strategize and develop programming, the JDC maintains fluid relationships with a variety of agencies to identify and collectively manage complex cases on an at-need basis.
The Jail Diversion Clinician is embedded full-time at the police department and is an integral part of the police organization. The Clinician accompanies patrol officers in the community, providing a joint response to calls for service. In addition, the Clinician follows-up with individuals during non-emergency times to provide support and stability to people whose situation would typically result in another emergency.
The clinician assists in the stabilization of the scene utilizing de-escalation techniques and providing victim assistance. While the officers focus on maintaining a safe, secure scene, the clinician focuses on assessing the needs of the individual family members. We work together to keep people out of the legal system and guide them toward services and treatment whenever possible.
In 2015 the APD JDP created the nationally recognized Arlington Opiate Overdose Outreach Initiative and was the first police partner of PAARI (Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative). You can find our program model on the PAARI website with an article written by the JDP Clinician explaining how we started our program and steps to create your own community program.
In 2011, the APD JDP program partnered with the Arlington’s Department of Health and Human Services to create the Hoarding Response Team. This comprehensive multi-layered team approach includes the Clinician, a police officer, health inspectors, Council on Aging social workers, and the Arlington Fire Department. Together the team assists these housing vulnerable residents by assessing their needs and providing referrals for or services including cleanouts and counseling.
In 2019, the APD JDP partnered with the Somerville Homeless Coalition to create the police-based Homeless Outreach Team. The team conducts outreach services weekly to areas in Arlington where unsheltered people are known to stay and they work to create trusting relationships with the goal of assisting individuals in to shelters and long-term housing.
The APD JDP was chosen by the Justice Center Council of State Governments as one of ten Law Enforcement Mental Health (LEMH) learning sites. Police Departments from all over the country have come to the APD to learn about our JDP program.
History of the JDP
In 2010, The Arlington Police Department became a pioneer in the collaboration between law enforcement and mental health services when we created our clinical co-response program, also called the Jail Diversion Program. The APD partnered with the Edinburg Center, a non-profit agency serving those affected with mental illness in our area. Prior to the creation of the Jail Diversion Program, the officers and individual in need of assistance were waiting an extended length of time for a mental health professional to respond. Without access to an immediate intervention, police officers were forced to either transport the individual to the nearest emergency department or take the individual into custody for a minor criminal offense. In other instances, officers felt an individual could benefit from mental health services; however, did not feel the situation in question was a psychiatric emergency. Without clinical training or sufficient resources to adequately address these complex problems, police officers had noticed a pattern of repeated interactions which often resulted in arrest. The 2010 partnership with the Edinburg Center allowed a full time clinician to be embedded in our police department to co-respond to 911 calls with officers . This produced the co-response and out-reach model which rests upon the continued collaboration and trust between the mental health clinician and our officers.
These collaborative models have recently drawn national attention. In January of 2018, the Arlington Police Department was awarded the honor of becoming a Law Enforcement Mental Health Learning Site, one of ten nationwide departments supported by the United States Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice and the Council on State Governments. This project provides training support for police departments from across the country to come to the Arlingon Police Department and learn about our program. They spend a few days with us learning about out program so they can return to their cities and towns and start their own co-response program.