NAMI Mass Criminal Justice Diversion Project

The NAMI Massachusetts Criminal Justice Diversion Project (CJDP) aims to prevent the unnecessary arrest and detention of people diagnosed with mental illness. The CJDP supports police departments and other first responders in engaging with people experiencing mental health crisis, and fosters connections between law enforcement, behavioral health providers, and other community stakeholders.

The CJDP is working to develop a statewide strategy to make high quality training on mental illness accessible to police departments in all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. Contact the CJDP to learn more about what you can do to help local law enforcement respond more safely and effectively to people diagnosed with mental illness.

Program Goals:

  • Promote development of high quality police and first responder training programs and specialized response teams on interacting with people diagnosed with mental illness;
  • Build partnerships between local police, mental health providers, and other community
  • Assure that crisis intervention services are available to everyone who requires them by advocating for expanded access to and funding for CIT training and other jail diversion programs.

Major Program Achievements:

  • Collaborated with the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) and the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to develop and launch an innovative new mental health curriculum for all municipal police recruits, in-service training for all current municipal officers, and in-service training for municipal police chiefs. Over 2,000 new police recruits, 17,000 officers, and over 200 chiefs in the Commonwealth received this important training on responding to mental health crises.
  • Partnered with the Somerville, Cambridge, Brookline, and Braintree Police Departments to develop three Regional Crisis Intervention Training and Technical Assistance Centers, with support from the Department of Mental Health. Over 400 officers from over 30 police departments have graduated from the Centers’ 40-hour mental health training, and receive assistance with development of policies for mental health response and partnerships with local resources.
  • Facilitated the development of local collaborations between police departments, behavioral health providers, and other key stakeholders in communities such as Brookline, Belmont, Medford, Braintree, Milton, and Cohasset. These partnerships have resulted in policies and procedures that enhance cross-system communication, increase safety, and maximize access to community treatment for people with behavioral health conditions.
  • Established an Advisory Group on Criminal Justice Diversion which includes representatives from state and local law enforcement, the judiciary, mental health providers and advocates, the Department of Mental Health, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Probation, District Attorney offices, and peers.
  • Developed an Information-Sharing Project with the Cambridge Police Department, the Department of Mental Health, and the West Roxbury District Court. This project clarifies and facilitates communication between law enforcement, mental health, and other systems for the purposes of diverting individuals with behavioral health conditions out of the criminal justice system and into appropriate supports.

Building Bridges: 10 Essential Elements for Effective Community Partnerships between Law Enforcement and Mental Health
Download Building Bridges PDF (opens in a new window)

Building Alliances between the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems to Prevent Unnecessary Arrests: Position Paper
Download Building Allies PDF (opens in a new window)

A Road Map Through the Criminal Justice System for Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families
Download Road Map PDF (opens in a new window)

Department of Mental Health Forensic Services
https://www.mass.gov/service-details/forensic-services (opens in a new window)

Specialty Courts in Massachusetts
https://www.mass.gov/specialty-courts (opens in a new window)

GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation
https://www.samhsa.gov/gains-center (opens in a new window)

Stepping Up Initiative
https://stepuptogether.org/ (opens in a new window)

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs
https://nami.org/Get-Involved/Crisis-Intervention-Team-(CIT)-Programs (opens in a new window)

Contact the NAMI Mass COMPASS Helpline for help finding additional resources. COMPASS is available Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. Call us at 617-704-6264 or email us at compass@namimass.org. Learn more about the NAMI Mass COMPASS Helpline.

Contact us for more information about the Criminal Justice Diversion Project:

Eliza Williamson
Director of Community Education and Training
617-580-8541 x 221
ewilliamson@namimass.org

Krisandra Kneer
Criminal Justice Coordinator
617-580-8541 x 209
kkneer@namimass.org