Law Enforcement Diversion and Deflection


Law enforcement diversion, sometimes called pre-arrest diversion, pre-booking diversion, or deflection, has become increasingly popular throughout the country. Instead of traditional police approaches (i.e., arrest, booking, and charging), law enforcement diversion and deflection rely on law enforcement as the referral source to community-based treatment or service providers before arrest. Typically, these programs address low-level crimes and target connecting individuals with behavioral health disorders to treatment services. The objectives of these diversion programs are to improve public safety, reduce unnecessary justice system involvement, and connect individuals to services they need, contributing to their interaction with the justice system.

The Center for Health and Justice at TASC has identified the five frameworks or pathways of first responder/law enforcement diversion, each of which addresses specific public safety challenges. These five approaches to connecting people to treatment through first responders are referred to as “pathways.” Each pathway is associated with particular elements that work differently. Communities establishing first responder/law enforcement diversion programs often begin with a single path and then add paths as their programs evolve.


Program Models

The HERO HELP Program is a collaboration between the Division of Police, the Delaware Department of Justice, and the State Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to provide drug and/or alcohol addiction treatment to qualifying adults who contact the police and ask for treatment, or to individuals instead of an immediate arrest for lesser crimes. The goal of the HERO HELP program is to not depend on criminal arrests alone to combat addiction and the crime it causes. Instead, the HERO HELP Program can provide a greater opportunity for those seeking treatment to overcome their addiction and prevent everyone from engaging in criminal activity to support their addiction.

Through the Harris County Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, those arrested for misdemeanor marijuana offenses are assessed to see if they qualify. If they do, the individual will not be charged with a criminal offense if they agree to participate in a one-time four-hour long class on cognitive decision-making. The goals of the program are to ensure that limited resources of the District Attorney’s Office, local law enforcement, and the Harris County Jail are used responsibly to increase public safety and that Individuals who commit misdemeanor marijuana offenses are not stigmatized by a criminal record limiting their employment, education, and housing opportunities.

The Atlanta-based Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative (PAD) is a law enforcement diversion program created to provide an immediate alternative to arresting people committing violations commonly related to mental health needs, addiction, and homelessness. The PAD program receives referrals through the City of Atlanta’s non-emergency 311 line and law enforcement when they have detained someone for a violation related to behavioral health or poverty. The PAD Harm Reduction Team conducts outreach and works with individuals to assess their immediate needs and provide ongoing support, including a warm meal, transportation to emergency shelters, help to navigate care options, or referrals to other service providers.

This program started in 2017 in response to the unprecedented number of overdoses in their community. This crisis precipitated Cabell County EMS to partner with local police and behavioral health agencies to develop a QRT program. Within 48 hours of an overdose event, members of the QRT, including EMS personnel, law enforcement, treatment providers, and faith leaders, provide outreach to individuals who have experienced an overdose. Initially, the QRT targeted individuals who received an EMS response for their overdose. They have since expanded their program to include referrals from the community. Huntington QRT has partnered with Marshall University to collect data and provide analysis of their work.

This program grew out of Tucson Police Department’s Mental Health Support Team (MHST), nationally recognized as a BJA Learning Site for Mental Health. In response to the crisis, the unit expanded to include ten officers, two detectives, two sergeants, two mental health co-responders, and two peer support specialists that provide outreach and engagement for substance use treatment services. Officers receive specialized training in addiction science, Adverse Childhood Experiences, medications to treat opioid use disorders, and motivational interviewing. Individuals come to the program through self-referral, a social-referral, or contact with officers outside of an agency facility; charges are presented but police “deflect” individuals to treatment and away from the criminal justice system; active team outreach is conducted to areas where at-risk subjects are found to engage in services and provide information and naloxone, and the program supports post overdose engagement in treatment and recovery.


Below is a list of funding opportunities that have been previously available from federal and private funding sources. Please note that although the funding deadlines may have passed, they can still be reviewed and considered for future planning purposes. You can check back often on the Announcements page for current funding opportunities as they are announced.

Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Site-based Program

Connect and Protect: Law Enforcement Behavioral Health Response Program

Technical Assistance

Many federal agencies and other partners offer assistance, in addition to grant funding, to jurisdictions, agencies and stakeholders to address training needs or the need for subject matter expertise to address local issues or challenges. Through these resources, you can access recent publications, tools, often request one-on-one remote or offsite assistance. Examples of assistance can include time with trainings, consulting time with subject matter experts, and/or opportunities for connecting with peers doing similar work.

Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Program Training and Technical Assistance

The COSSAP training and technical assistance (TTA) program offers a variety of learning opportunities and assistance to support BJA COSSAP grantees and other local, tribal, and state stakeholders to build and sustain multidisciplinary criminal justice responses to illicit substance use and misuse. Training and technical assistance is provided in a variety of formats, including virtual and in-person training events, workshop and meeting presentations, and online resources. TTA deliveries are provided to requestors free of charge. You can request assistance here.


Law Enforcement-Mental Health Collaboration Support Center

The Law Enforcement-Mental Health Collaboration Support Center offers free training, resources, and support to communities wanting to improve their law enforcement and community responses to people with behavioral health conditions or intellectual and developmental disabilities. This includes helping jurisdictions develop police-mental health collaborations, which are high-quality partnership-based interventions co-designed by law enforcement and health agencies, to help officers safely and effectively respond to calls for service involving people with behavioral health needs.

Law Enforcement/First Responder Diversion and Referral Mentoring Initiative

This program provides communities interested in starting diversion and/or referral programs the opportunity to learn from established or innovative programs that have successfully met the treatment needs of individuals with a substance use disorder who may have experienced an overdose in some cases. Seven programs serve as mentors for communities interested in starting programs or established programs interested in learning innovative practices to enhance their existing initiatives. You can request a site visit here.