Dauphin County Diversion to Mental Health Services

2022 NACo Achievement Award Winner

Dauphin County, Pa., PA

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About the Program

Category: Criminal Justice and Public Safety (Best in Category)

Year: 2022

Dauphin County has deployed a comprehensive and holistic approach to providing for those with mental health needs – specifically, proper response upon a person’s encounter with law enforcement; and sustaining a level of care for that person while still achieving public safety objectives. Dauphin County recognizes the demand and responsibilities of law enforcement officers (and social workers) have drastically increased in recent years. That demand was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which inflicted loneliness and depression upon countless people and families, worsening mental health and substance use needs already pervasive in every community. By assessing and considering the unique circumstances of each person and incident, Dauphin County is enabling more people to get treatment and filing fewer criminal charges in instances when mental health/substance use needs are obvious and pertinent to the underlying behavior. Thus, fewer people with mental health needs are being incarcerated by default, particularly upon initial contacts with law enforcement. With a collaborative approach involving synergy between police, courts, social and human services, community partners, and other offices and agencies, Dauphin County is evaluating everyone’s unique needs for care while preserving public safety.