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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Jail Diversion Services

The Criminal Mental Health Program (CMHP) was originally established to divert nonviolent misdemeanant defendants with Serious Mental Illnesses (SMI) and possible co-occurring substance use disorders, from the criminal justice system into community-based treatment and support services. Since that time, the program has been expanded to serve defendants that have been arrested for less serious felonies and other charges as determined appropriate.

All defendants who are arrested and booked into the jail are screened for signs and symptoms of mental illnesses. Those who are identified in possible psychiatric distress are referred to corrections health services’ psychiatric staff for more thorough evaluation. Individuals charged with misdemeanors who meet program admission criteria (SMI diagnosis and need for acute treatment and services) are transferred from the jail to a community-based crisis stabilization unit within 24 to 48 hours of booking.

Individuals charged with felonies are referred to the CMHP through several sources including the Public Defender’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office, private attorneys, judges, corrections health services, and family members. All participants must meet diagnostic and legal criteria. All participants must voluntarily consent to mental health treatment and services. All referrals must be approved by the State Attorney’s Office, with the consent of victims when appropriate. Upon stabilization, legal charges may be dismissed or modified in accordance with treatment engagement. Individuals who voluntarily agree to services are assisted with linkages to a comprehensive array of community-based treatment, support, and housing services that are essential for successful community re-entry and recovery outcomes. The CMHP utilizes the APIC (Assess, Plan, Identify and Coordinate) Model to provide transition planning for all program participants. This is a nationally recognized best practice model that provides a set of critical elements that improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders that are released from jails. CMHP staff develop transition plans that are individualized for each program participant. The goal is to support community living, reduce maladaptive behaviors, and decrease the chances that individuals will re-offend and reappear in the criminal justice system.

Post-Booking Jail Diversion Program Eligibility

The CMHP was originally established in 2000 to divert nonviolent misdemeanant defendants with SMI and possible co-occurring substance use disorders, from the criminal justice system into community-based treatment and support services. In 2008, the program was expanded to serve defendants that have been arrested for less serious felonies and other charges as determined appropriate. A specialized docket was also developed for domestic violence defendants.

  1. Clinical Eligibility
    • Must be diagnosed with a primary serious mental illness, i.e., schizophrenia (or other psychotic disorders), schizo-affective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, or PTSD
    • Voluntarily agree to mental health or co-occurring treatment and services
  2. Legal Eligibility
    • All misdemeanors (excluding traffic cases)
    • Most serious current charge 3rd and some 2nd degree felony (excluding carrying a concealed weapon, child abuse, and aggravated assault with a firearm) with no more than three prior non-violent felony convictions; or
    • Individuals with more serious past or present legal involvement may be considered by the SAO for participation on a case-by-case basis
    • NOT or NO LONGER adjudicated incompetent to proceed (ITP)
  3. Program Criteria
    • Must be identified as High or Moderate Risk/Need as determined by validated screening tool assessment during intake process
    • Voluntarily to agree to random Drug Screening as requested

Based on the severity of the charges and criminal and mental health history, a plea agreement is made in consultation with the State Attorney’s Office and the defense counsel whether to dismiss or modify charges based upon treatment engagement and completion of the transition plan. All program participants are assisted in accessing community-based treatment, services and supports. Progress is monitored and reported back to the court by CMHP staff.

Based on assessed risks and needs jail diversion court specialists may help with accessing treatment, medication, housing, entitlements, and other ancillary services. Peer Specialists may be assigned to offer support and guidance to ensure successful community integration. Entitlement Specialists can assist with applying for social security benefits

For more information about the Criminal Mental Health Program and Jail Diversion services:

Cindy Schwartz, Project Director at 305 548-5319 or at cischwartz@jud11.flcourts.org

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