People diagnosed with mental illness who commit nonviolent, petty offenses are the focus
The move to create a statewide mental health diversion program is advancing. On Thursday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would allow people diagnosed with mental illness who committed nonviolent, petty offenses to be eligible for mental health services instead of jail time
Essex County is one of several across New Jersey where mental health diversion programs already exist. “We’re looking for as many ways as possible to keep people who should not be involved in the criminal justice system out of the system, especially when it appears that there’s an underlying mental health reason,” said acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens.
More than 300 people have completed the Essex County program with less than 1% re-offending, according to Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Gwen Williams.
Williams said the legislation would help provide resources for these programs, including hiring additional mental health and other experts and increasing the number of participants.
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