CLEVELAND — Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announced Friday a plan to divert non-violent offenders to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Diversion Center.
Bibb’s office said the expanded use of the Diversion Center will help refocus city resources to fight violent crime.
“The Diversion Center offers mental health services and is a proven model to reduce re-offending,” stated Mayor Bibb. “It is critical that we re-prioritize City resources to help first responders deliver the right response at the right time and target the root causes of violent crime.”
Bibb’s office outlined the following steps to expand the center’s usage:
- Eliminating the need for pre-approval by a city prosecutor and trusting Cleveland police officers to make the correct decision at the time of an arrest or stop
- Dramatically expanding the range of non-violent offenses for which diversion is permitted
- Protecting victims and complying with Marsy’s law by requiring officers to articulate and record their reasonable efforts to contact victims and the grounds for diversion
The mayor’s office said non-violent misdemeanor offenses are eligible for diversion except in the following cases:
- Any escalating misdemeanor (i.e. domestic violence, menacing by stalking), including operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) and physical control
- Assault where physical harm results in medical assistance being needed
- Any offense that qualifies as a sex offense
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said he expects the city of Cleveland to be the biggest user of the center and applauded Bibb’s decision.
“Our goal since the inception of the Diversion Center has been to connect individuals suffering from mental illness or substance abuse disorder with a direct resource that offers better treatment options and services than incarceration,” Budish said.
The Diversion Center is a 50-bed facility that opened last year. The county says services the center offers include assessment, medical evaluation, case management, counseling, medications, Medication Assisted Treatment, withdrawal management, NAMI educational groups, referral and linkage to other community services.
“A person might stay at the Diversion Center for four to five days depending on their needs, and that can be a turning point in a person’s life,” said Scott S. Osiecki, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board. “The Diversion Center is an option when people are struggling to manage mental health issues or substance use disorders, when symptoms are getting worse. The Diversion Center staff works with the individual to stabilize the symptoms and connect or reconnect to ongoing care.”