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Grant to Create "Bridge Program"

By NRVToday reposted with permission

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Mental Health Association of the New River Valley, in partnership with Montgomery County, has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to create the nation's first rural, cross-jurisdictional jail diversion program for persons with mental illness. The grant is one of six awarded in the nation, and the only to be awarded to a largely rural community.

Grant funds totaling $1.2 million dollars will be received over a three-year period to plan, implement, and operate this innovative jail diversion program. New River Valley courts will join with the area's fourteen law enforcement agencies in five governmental jurisdictions to expand their successful rural pre-booking Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program into a new post-booking, pre-trial point on the jail diversion continuum.

The effort will be led by the Mental Health Association of the New River Valley, with Montgomery County serving as the fiscal agent for the entire program. The project is expected to divert approximately 156 persons per year from the local jails-all persons with identified mental illness who are inappropriately in confinement rather than receiving needed mental health treatment. The program will aid in the overcrowding of the jails, and will offer a more humane and cost-effective alternative to incarceration.

This year the New River Valley completed a groundbreaking implementation of the Memphis Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Program. Currently, the area has 61 trained CIT Officers and Deputies, representing 14 law enforcement agencies.

The New River Valley CIT program is the first rural, multi-jurisdictional CIT program in the nation. SAMHSA funded this program's consensus building, planning and implementation with two Community Action Grants.

Now, this same inter-agency group of stakeholders will expand on their CIT success and capitalize on their momentum by creating a new companion post-booking, pre-trial diversion program named "The Bridge Program."

At the core of the Bridge Program will be an interagency group of staff persons known as the Bridge Team. This Team will come together from New River Valley Community Services, New River Valley Community Corrections and Pretrial Services, and the local social services agencies.

Team members will go to the New River Valley Regional Jail and the Montgomery County Jail each morning and identify, screen, and enroll eligible clients. Enrolled clients will each participate in the creation of their own individualized and culturally appropriate "Bridge Pre-Trial Treatment Plan." Judges will grant Pre-Trial Release based on participation in the Bridge Program. Adherence to the conditions and receipt of the treatments/services outlined in the Bridge Plan will lead to charges being dropped.

A Peer Ombudsman will be integral to the program, to ensure that human rights are upheld and that all Bridge Plans are maximally self-determined, realistic, empowering, and have a goal of recovery. A Cultural Competency Consultant will be a member of the planning and training teams. All trainings for stakeholders and Bridge Staff will have a integrated cultural competency component.

An array of community-based mental health services provided to Bridge clients will conform to nationally recognized Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) for this justice-diverted population. Social services and other supportive programs to maximize community re-integration will be accessed by clients with the assistance of the Bridge Team.

Implementation and outcome evaluation components will be conducted by Isaac Van Patten, Ph.D., Chair of the Radford University Department of Criminal Justice. Resulting data from this project will add to the nation's knowledge base on rural jail diversion programs and the application of successful service models in rural settings. Both the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice and the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services are engaged as active and enthusiastic partners in this local groundbreaking initiative.

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