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City to Open 'Diversion Centers' in Effort to Keep Mentally Ill Off Rikers

By Katie Honan | May 11, 2017 3:25pm | Updated on May 11, 2017 8:14pm

NEW YORK CITY — The city is planning to open two "diversion centers" — which will redirect people with mental health issues in the criminal justice system to treatment centers instead of Rikers — at a cost of $90 million, according to officials.

Samaritan Daytop Village, which operates many shelters and drug rehab centers, and homeless operator Project Renewal have each been awarded tentative 10-year contracts to run the centers.

“These two new diversion centers will provide police officers with a new option for responding to the needs of some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers – instead of making an arrest, police will be able to connect people to the mental health or substance abuse care they need,” the mayor said in a press release.

The centers — which are set to open in 2018 — will be open 24/7, offer mental and medical health services, counseling, and medically-supervised substance use stabilization, according to the city. 

Those brought in by police can stay a few hours or up to five days, depending on the need, officials said. 

It’s not clear where the centers will be located, although a job listing for the director of Samaritan Village’s site lists Parkchester, The Bronx as the site address.

Jobs at the centers will include social workers, a primary care physician, an occupational therapist, rehabilitation aide and peer specialist, according to the contracts reviewed by DNAinfo.

The creation of diversion centers was recommended in the report issued in April by the independent commission brought together to study closing Rikers — which the mayor pledged last month to do within 10 years.

READ MORE: Mayor Pledges to Close Rikers Island in 10 Years, Reduce Jail Population

“The city should establish diversion programs to keep low-level misdemeanor cases out of the criminal courts,” the report states. “Eligible defendants would be brought to a community- based service provider that would conduct an assessment, require participation in social services or community restitution, and offer voluntary assistance.”

Samaritan Daytop Village got a nearly $46 million contract that will run from June 1, 2027 through May 31, 2027, records show. Project Renewal’s nearly $44 million contract will begin Sept. 1 and runs through August 30, 2027.

Project Renewal is one of the city’s largest health providers to the homeless, helping more than 12,000 people a year, according to its website. They also provide transitional and permanent housing to thousands of people.

The centers are a final component of the Mayor’s Action Plan on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System, which was launched in 2014 and has reduced the number of people with a mental health diagnosis by 7 percent, officials said. 

► City Hall Quietly Eyes Neighborhoods for New Jails to Replace Rikers Island
► Here Are City Documents on 'Effort' to Close Rikers That De Blasio Denies
​► Rikers Island: The Evolution of City Hall's Search for a Fix