A photo of Cuyahoga County Council Member Michael Gallagher asking about the Diversion Center at the Cuyahoga County Council Public Safety & Justice Affairs Committee meeting on October 6, 2023.
Cuyahoga County Council Member Michael Gallagher asks about the Diversion Center. Credit: Cuyahoga County Council YouTube

Covered by Documenter Barbara Phipps (notes)

Diversion needed

The Cuyahoga County Diversion Center is not being used as intended, County Council Member Michael Gallagher said. He took issue with how seldom law enforcement agencies refer people there. The center is at a building owned by behavioral health group Oriana House on E. 55th Street. Opened in May 2021, the center’s purpose was to keep people experiencing mental health issues out of  the criminal justice system and reduce the county jail population. Instead, it functions primarily as a mental health services center available to anyone, Gallagher said, adding that it needs buy-in from police departments.

Making calls

Brandy Carney, the county’s chief of Public Safety & Justice, acknowledged that law enforcement agencies have been slow to embrace the center. Carney, who also sits on a board that advises on the center, shared that 78% of all referral calls through July 2023 (2,827 total) came from community members, self-referral or other agencies. Twenty-two percent came from police. It is a culture shift that will take time, Carney said.  

‘Pin’s going to get pulled’

In August, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department joined a state- and federally-supported initiative to help Cleveland address crime. Details of that effort — a downtown Cleveland safety patrol consisting of eight deputy sheriffs, one sergeant, and two canine units — were well-received at a September Cleveland City Council meeting. But at least one county official — Gallagher — isn’t as thrilled. “We’re eight weeks deep into this and doing Cleveland’s job for them with other partners,” he said to Sheriff Harold Pretel in this meeting. “We’re at a point where…the pin’s going to get pulled.”     

Helping a city

Pretel came to the county this year after spending nearly 30 years with Cleveland’s police department. Pretel gave a sweeping presentation of the department’s operations, noting high staffing levels. The downtown initiative is about the county supporting a municipality, as it would if Rocky River or Maple Heights asked for help, Pretel said.

Know someone struggling with a mental health or substance use issue? Call FrontLine Services at 216-623-6888 for assistance. 

Read more from Documenter Barbara Phipps:

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