A group of about 50 community and Fairfax County government leaders has launched an effort, called Diversion First, with the goal of reducing the number of people with mental illness in local jails by diverting non-violent offenders experiencing mental health crises to treatment instead of incarceration.
The inaugural meeting of the Diversion First group included four judges, top officials from throughout the Fairfax County government, mental health leaders, local law enforcement agencies, local political leaders, mental health advocacy groups, and community members whose families have experienced the consequences of incarceration as well as its alternative – diversion to appropriate mental health treatment.
"The county took a major step forward Monday night," says Gary Ambrose, Inaugural Chair of the Diversion First initiative and Chairman of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB). "This effort will change the way law enforcement interacts with offenders in our community who are living with mental illness."
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Jeanne Comeau, NAMI Northern Virginia's Executive Director, is a member of the Diversion First collaborative group. Concerned Fairfax, an advocacy group of NAMI Northern Virginia, is represented by Gary Ambrose and Jeanne Comeau.