Editor’s note: This story was written based on an ADAMHS Board Planning and Oversight Committee meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Since that meeting, the ADAMHS Board and Cuyahoga County have talked about having some of the services currently offered at the diversion center be moved to the crisis center. We will continue to update this story.
The Cuyahoga County Diversion Center will be under new management next year after the current operating agency said it won’t apply for a new contract.
The Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board’s contract with the county to run the center ends Dec. 31.
The diversion center opened in May 2021, and the ADAMHS Board has operated it since.
Scott Osiecki, the ADAMHS Board’s CEO, said the agency does not plan to respond to the county’s new request for proposal for an operating agency.
The diversion center offers mental health and substance use treatment to people accused of committing low-level offenses who would otherwise be taken to jail. Law enforcement officers can take people to the diversion center if they’re showing symptoms of mental illness or substance use.
- Who can use the diversion center?
Law enforcement officers or family members can refer someone to the diversion center. A person can also refer themselves.
Emergency Medical Services personnel are not authorized to take people to the diversion center.
- How does it work?
The person making the referral has to first call a 24/7 Help Line 216-623-6888. A screener with FrontLine takes the call and the caller tells them what symptoms the person in crisis is experiencing. The screener then directs them either to the diversion center or to another appropriate treatment option, for example an emergency room.
It was originally opened only for law enforcement officers to use. Six months after opening, in November 2021, the center expanded to offer services to anyone who needs mental health or substance use treatment.
At the board’s Planning and Oversight Committee meeting last week, Osiecki said the ADAMHS Board doesn’t want to be the middleman between Oriana House and the county. He also said the board wants to focus on its mission.
“We believe it would be much easier for the county to interact with Oriana as well without having to interact with us,” Osiecki said.
The ADAMHS Board contracts Oriana House to provide most of the services at the center. University Hospital provides psychiatric services. Oriana House is working on an application to operate the center.
A criminal justice focus
Oriana House’s focus is to help people in the criminal justice system who need treatment for substance use and mental illness.
Michael Randle, executive vice president for operations for Oriana House, said the goal of the diversion center is tied to the organization’s mission.
“This is part of what our agency does,” Randle said. “We have a commitment to serving people that have to deal with these kinds of issues.”
Osiecki said while the ADAMHS Board is tasked with connecting people to behavioral health services, the criminal justice system is not its responsibility.
“We help the criminal justice system, but that is not our goal,” Osiecki said. “And as you know, the diversion center has kind of morphed a little bit more into more of a criminal justice facility than it was originally established.”
Mayor Justin Bibb expanded the low-level offenses for which officers are allowed to take someone to the diversion center. The expansion included all but three types of non-violent misdemeanor offenses – assault, a sex offense, or an escalating misdemeanor such as domestic violence or driving impaired.
The board is turning its attention to creating a behavioral health crisis center with St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and MetroHealth.
“The focus in the future will be on actually helping people with substance use disorders and mental health issues,” said Robert Fowler, board chair. “I think as time goes on, we’re gonna have our hands full.”