Miami-Dade County is home to the largest percentage of people with serious mental illnesses (SMI; e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression) of any urban community in the United States. Roughly 9.1% of the population (more than 210,000 individuals) experience SMI, yet fewer than 13% of these individuals receive care in the public mental health system. As a result, law enforcement and correctional officers have increasingly become the lone responders to people in crisis due to untreated mental illnesses. On any given day, the Miami-Dade County Jail houses approximately 1,200 individuals with SMI. This represents approximately 17% of the total inmate population, and costs taxpayers more than $50 million annually. The County jail now serves as the largest psychiatric facility in the State of Florida. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project (CMHP) was established to divert nonviolent misdemeanant defendants with serious mental illnesses (SMI) or co-occurring SMI and substance use disorders, from the criminal justice system into community-based treatment and support services. Since that time the program has expanded to serve defendants that have been arrested for less serious felonies and other charges as determined appropriate. The program operates two components: pre-booking diversion consisting of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement officers and post-booking diversion serving individuals booked into the jail and awaiting adjudication. All participants are provided with individualized transition planning including linkages to community-based treatment and support services. The CMHP provides an effective, cost-efficient solution to a community problem and works by eliminating gaps in services, and by forging productive and innovative relationships among all stakeholders who have an interest in the welfare and safety of one of our community’s most vulnerable populations.

Eligible individuals must have pending misdemeanor charges, or less serious felonies, be booked into the jail, and meet criteria for involuntary psychiatric examination based on Florida Statutes. Eligible individuals are screened at the jail, by Corrections health staff to determine if they can be referred for services.

Based on the severity of the charges and the individuals criminal and mental health history, a determination is made in consultation with the State Attorney’s Office and the defense counsel whether or not to dismiss charges upon the client’s stabilization and completion of a discharge plan. If it is determined at discharge that the individual requires greater supervision, the defendant is transported back to court by the Department of Corrections where the court decides the appropriate outcome and conditions for release. As part of the Project, probation officers are specially trained to handle individuals with mental illnesses. When appropriate, individuals are placed on probation with these particular probation officers who work to keep the defendant compliant with treatment. Monitoring a defendant on a misdemeanor charge ranges from six months to a year. Failure of a defendant to comply with treatment may result in the initiation of Baker Act proceedings(link to Baker Act)or on rare occasions, jail.. In cases where it has been determined that the individual does not need to return to court, the charges are dismissed after the court receives a discharge summary from the receiving facility, and the individual agrees to participate in the Jail Diversion Program. The individual is then referred to a community-based treatment program for ongoing treatment.

Housing Program: The Jail. Diversion staff works closely community housing organizations to ensure that adequate housing is available to program clients.

Entitlement program: Jail Diversion staff works with local Social Security Administration Office to assist and expedite program clients access to benefits.

ALF Quality Care Program: The Assisted Living referral program was established in order to improve the access to and quality of care received at Assisted living facilities.

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

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