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Harrisonburg Police Department Mental Health Diversion Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $550,000)

The City of Harrisonburg, VA is requesting $550,000 to implement the Harrisonburg Police Department Mental Health Diversion Project (HPD MHDP), in collaboration with the Rockingham Harrisonburg Justice and Mental Health Collaboration (RHJMHC), a multijurisdictional law enforcement and mental health program overseen by Rockingham-Harrisonburg Court Services Unit and supported by Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office. The primary service area is the City of Harrisonburg (pop. 51,430). It will also benefit the surrounding Rockingham County (pop. 84.394). The Harrisonburg population is 7.2% Black and 20.5% Hispanic; Harrisonburg is a refugee resettlement community with more than 70 languages spoken in the city schools.  

This proposal fills important gaps in the region’s current mental health crisis response. The primary beneficiaries are individuals with mental health disorders (MHDs) or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders (MHSUDs). The purpose of the proposed project is to improve the diversion of individuals with MHDs and MHSUDs from arrest and unnecessary hospitalization and increase access to treatment in the least restrictive environment. Primary activities include:1) Creating a new co-response program within the HPD, comprised of two behavioral health personnel (e.g., clinicians or qualified mental health professionals); 2) Expanding field-based assessment to better connect individuals to community-based mental health, substance use, and other support services; 3) Increasing follow-up with individuals released from the crisis assessment center, hospitals, or jails; 4) Increasing CIT refresher and advanced topics training among HPD officers; and 5) Expanding data tracking, coordination, and utilization across regional justice and mental health partners. The City of Harrisonburg will contract with independent evaluators to conduct process and outcome evaluations. Expected outcomes include a reduction in individuals with MHDs/MHSUDs who are arrested or taken to the emergency department on mental health calls for service (MH CFS), reduced law enforcement time on MH CFS, increased referrals to community-based services, including specialized services for high risk/high need female offenders, and decreased recidivism among the target population.

The proposal will address priority areas of promoting racial equity and reducing barriers for underserved and marginalized communities and all of the program-specific priority considerations, including the promotion of effective law enforcement strategies to identify and reduce harm to individuals with MHDs and MHSUDs and improve public safety; the promotion of effective strategies to identify and treat females with MHDs and MHSUDs who have been incarcerated; and utilization of evidence-based interventions and validated assessment tools.

Date Created: September 26, 2023