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The Boulder County District Attorney’s Office has secured funding to expand its mental health diversion program.

In 2018, Boulder County became one of four pilot sites in Colorado to implement a mental health diversion program, which allows people who are arrested to get screened for mental health programs instead of entering the criminal justice system.

But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Colorado ceased funding, leading all of the pilot jurisdictions but Boulder County to end their mental health diversion programs.

Boulder County was able to redistribute funds from other diversion programs to include the mental health program, and also used some funding from the federal CARES Act for coronavirus relief and received help from Community Justice Services and Health and Human Services in Boulder.

But according to a press release, a bill that expanded the scope of existing pretrial adult diversion to include mental health diversion and allocated additional funding to support these programs will allow the program to not only continue, but to expand.

With the extra funding, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office will be able to add a second behavioral health navigator so that the program can serve additional participants.

“Participants work with our two behavioral health navigators to connect with community agencies and access resources for mental health and substance use treatment, medical and dental care, Medicaid, housing, food stamps, basic needs, and other supports to gain stability,” the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Behavioral health navigators build a collaborative relationship with diversion participants to work on these stability areas, while also utilizing restorative justice practices to support personal accountability and to facilitate repair of the harm that was caused by their offense.”

Since its creation in 2018, the mental health diversion program has served 121 people. In 2021, 92% of clients successfully completed the program and had their charges dismissed.

“Our Mental Health Diversion Program helps individuals to stabilize, get on the right track, and not engage in criminal conduct,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said in a statement. “Colorado ranks poorly when compared to other states in access to mental health care. Our state’s glaring lack of mental health care can result in increased contact with the justice system for some individuals. Expanding this successful, innovative program is the absolute right thing to do.”