HARLEM — Low-level offenders with mental health or substance abuse problems will get a chance to pick treatment over a trip to Rikers Island when a new Diversion Center comes to the neighborhood.
The program, run by the NYPD and the Department of Health, will serve as a voluntary alternative to hospitalization or arrest in the 23rd, 25th and 28th Precincts. It's the first of its kind in the city and should be operational by October, according to Community Board 10.
In December, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $130 million plan to address mental and behavioral health issues in the criminal justice system. The diversion center is part of that plan, according to a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office.
“There are many individuals in the community who have mental, behavioral or substance abuse issues that are not getting the necessary help if they are arrested and just put through the system,” Central Harlem’s Community Board 10 wrote in a statement.
“In a lot of cases they tend to just be released and put back on the street in a matter of hours of days and their mental, behavioral and substance abuse issues are not addressed.”
Only people who have committed nonviolent, low-level violations will be admitted to the center, Community Board 10 added.
The exact location of the diversion center has not been decided yet.
The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will select a community-based organization through the RFP process soon. The location of the diversion center will depend on which organization is selected, according to the community board.
Services offered at the center will include short-term shelter, substance abuse treatment, peer counseling, and community care, according to a DOHMH spokeswoman.
Officers participating in the program will undergo a 36-hour training program to help them better recognize behaviors and symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse, according to the Mayor’s Office.
The NYPD did not respond to questions about the diversion center.