Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $2,988,000)
The Center for Diversion and Services (Diversion Center) represents many years of communications, collaborations, strategy, and other efforts among City of Atlanta (COA) and Fulton County (County) stakeholders to provide crucial services for people experiencing concerns related to mental health, homelessness, substance use, and poverty. The Diversion Center will offer 24/7 per-arrest diversion, including a drop-off point for law enforcement and co-located services and connections to community resources. The Diversion Center is also a shared project planned, supported, and funded by core partners, including COA, County, Grady Health System (Grady), the Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiative (PAD), and Georgia Justice Project (GJP).
The Diversion Center’s overall goal is to improve functioning of metro Atlanta’s criminal legal system by transitioning away from arrest and jail as responses to concerns related to homelessness, mental health, substance use, and poverty and increasing law enforcement’s ability to focus on serious community harm such as gun, gang, and domestic violence by refocusing their time and other crucial resources.
Services offered to Diversion Center guests will include peer reception and navigation through Diversion Center services; behavioral health screening and needs assessment for all guests (e.g., mental health concerns, substance use and addiction, housing needs, etc.); a sobering and respite room (for individuals who are intoxicated but do not require acute medical care (up to 23 hours)); peer support and referrals to off-site community-based treatment providers and non-profit organizations (including services to help place guests in supportive housing if required); case management and basic legal navigation (including warrant resolution for technical violations to avoid arrests and jail bookings);transportation to other partner facilities or referral services where helpful and/or needed; non-emergency medical care (including basic wound care and vitals); and amenities (a food and clothing pantry, laundry services, shower facilities, lockers, phone charging stations, access to computers, public transit cards, and a living room to provide a comfortable and welcoming environment).
As the Diversion Center is project to open in April 2023, this project includes a six-month pre-opening phase (October 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023) and the first year of operations (April 1, 2023 through March 31, 2024). The Diversion Center will be operated by a third-party operator, for which COA has released an open and competitive procurement. Diversion Center operations will also be facilitated by on-site partners including Grady, PAD, and GJP. Off-site referrals will be also made to metro Atlanta’s network of nonprofit organizations and supportive systems providing resource and service needs such as housing, healthcare, and transportation. Additionally, the Diversion Center will be overseen by the Justice Policy Board, which is a collaborative, intergovernmental group of stakeholders aiming to ensure the Diversion Center’s success and expansion of similar resources and services around metro Atlanta.
To ensure impact and success, the Diversion Center will measure reductions in daily and average jail bookings at ACDC and Fulton County Jail, as well as average length of stay, particularly for people who screen positive for mental health, homelessness, and substance use concerns. The Diversion Center will also measure outputs such as the number of guests who connect to aftercare and transition to stable housing situations. The Diversion Center anticipates serving 41 guests per day who will be diverted from ACDC, Fulton County Jail, and Grady Health System’s psychiatric emergency services.