SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION (SAMHSA) GRANT AWARDED TO BOULDER CO. AND MENTAL HEALTH PARTNERS (MHP) FOR PROJECT EDGE–ONE OF THREE SUCH AWARDS NATIONALL Y–$966,000

In Boulder County people with a behavioral health condition are almost 3 times more likely to have contact with law enforcement than people without such a condition. The reasons for this disparity in contact with law enforcement are in part due to behaviors related to their disorder and/or their attempts to meet their daily needs for food, shelter and safety. In other words our system is addressing a psychiatric and human services gap through the Criminal Justice System.

This fundamental misalignment has been the focus of an ongoing collaboration among Boulder’s courts, sheriff, police, probation/parole, Community Justice Center (CJC), Addiction Recovery Center (ARC) and Mental Health Partners (MHP). This collaboration has led to the creation of a continuum of jail diversion programs. The earliest point of diversion from the criminal justice system is before arrest and from a public health perspective– efforts targeting this area have the largest potential for impact on criminal diversion efforts.

Boulder County Colorado’s early diversion program, Early Diversion, Get Engaged (Project EDGE) enhances existing resources to reach individuals with Behavioral Health (i.e., Mental Illness, Substance Use or Co-Occurring Disorders) conditions as they come in contact with law enforcement, offering an alternative to arrest and incarceration. At the heart of Project EDGE is an established collaboration between Boulder County law enforcement, the courts, mental health services and substance use treatment services. Project EDGE is designed to deliver the following results:

  1. Improve Boulder County’s ability to deliver a comprehensive, multi-agency, culturally responsive, evidence-based earliest point of diversion service for adults with Behavioral Health disorders at risk for criminal justice involvement;
  2. Address the behavioral health needs of Boulder County residents with mental, substance use and co-occurring disorders identified by law enforcement personnel as at risk for involvement in the criminal justice system;
  3. Improve engagement and retention in behavioral health services among those individuals identified as at-risk for criminal justice involvement
  4. Reduce criminal justice involvement, including contacts, arrests, and days spent in correctional facility among Project EDGE participants; and
  5. Build a robust infrastructure to support ongoing local criminal justice diversion efforts through the dissemination of evidence-based practices, performance measurement/assessment strategies, and development of recovery-oriented quality improvement systems.

The Project EDGE continuum of early diversion (pre-arrest) services are conceptualized as three distinct yet overlapping components: 1) Comprehensive First Response, 2) Ongoing Prevention, and 3) Targeted Intervention. Individuals at risk for criminal justice involvement have complex and interwoven service needs. Project EDGE will serve 2,613 people during the 3 year grant period.