Developing a street-level behavioral health diversion

People with behavioral health issues frequently end up in emergency treatment or in jail, but ERs and the criminal justice system are not well equipped to treat them. As a result, patients don't get the treatment they need, while the services they do receive are extraordinarily expensive to taxpayers.

Research indicates that, rather than going to the ER or jail, individuals with behavioral health issues should be diverted to community-based resources. When done well, diversion connects patients to the assessment and referral services they need and reduces the cost of treatment.

Cook County wanted to establish a street-level diversion program via a new "Community Triage Center" (CTC). When CCHSS decided to pilot a CTC, it called upon Civic Consulting Alliance and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy's new "Policy Labs" program to determine where these centers are most needed, and what their returnon investment might be.

To answer these questions, Policy Lab students tracked individuals discharged fromCook County Jail and assessed the capacity and quality of behavioral health providers in their areas of residence. The students bolstered their recommendations by surveying national data on similar community diversion centers. Through this analysis, the students identified where the new Community Triage Center would have the most impact, as well as locations for future expansion. Moreover, by providing an alternative to the ER or jail, the students estimated these clinics could provide considerable cost savings to the County.

To hear students speak firsthand about their work on this project, listen to Harris'
recent podcast about Policy Labs
.