Fairfax County Economic Development Authority
Public Sector Nominee
1. What is your mission and vision?
Diversion First offers alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low level offenses. The goal is to intercede whenever possible to provide assessment, treatment or needed supports. Diversion First is designed to prevent repeat encounters with the criminal justice system, improve public safety, promote a healthier community, and is a more cost effective and efficient use of public funding.
2. How does your organization achieve its mission?
County leadership is committed to this effort and supports the policy changes and applying resources (human, financial, problem-solving, policy) where they are needed and as gaps are identified. Multiple initiatives are happening at once and are being coordinated. This includes workforce development, service delivery shifts, and business practice redesign, all focused on a common goal of diverting people with behavioral health issues to treatment and out of criminal justice involvement. There is also massive community and stakeholder support for these efforts and our stakeholders group meets quarterly to learn of updates and make recommendations. This model of being accountable to the community has helped maintain interest and buy-in.
3. How have your programs directly impacted the regional community?
Over 900 people were diverted from potential arrest since Diversion First was launched in 2016.
4. What inspires or drives your team to stay committed to your mission?
Diversion First helps to decriminalize mental illness in our communities and connects people with the treatment they need to get their lives back on track. Hearing from those directly served by Diversion First and their families and friends helps to drive the success of the program. Diversion First has also been recognized nationally, and program leaders have spoken to organizations around the country about the successes and challenges with Diversion First.