City to Implement Pre-Arrest Diversion Program for Low-Level Crimes

PITTSBURGH, PA (July 20, 2020) The City of Pittsburgh and CONNECT have been awarded funds to develop and implement a public health-focused, pre-arrest diversion program for people who commit low-level crimes stemming from behavioral health issues, including those whose crimes are related mental health and poverty as well problematic substance use.  

The funds are from the Allegheny County Health Department's Overdose Data to Action CDC grant and will directly align with the City's public health focus in the new Office of Community Health and Safety. Legislation accepting the support will be introduced to Pittsburgh City Council tomorrow. 

This pilot program will: 

  1. Work to ensure that participants do NOT enter the criminal justice system; 
  2. Support people who have high engagement with police (specifically associated with crimes of poverty) and instead refer to social services and supports; 
  3. Be harm reduction-based (i.e., participants have agency and identify goals). 

"We know that cycling people through the criminal justice system does not improve outcomes. Our goal is to continue to work with the community, county partners, public safety, and CONNECT to interrupt this cycle by implementing public health-informed practices like diversion," Mayor William Peduto said. 

Zone 1 was identified as the place for the first pilot with the goal of expanding it city-wide (and regionally, in partnership with CONNECT). The Northside is the only place in the county with a formal youth diversion program, which is run by Foundation of HOPE and funded by Dollar Bank, Buhl Foundation, and Pittsburgh Foundation. 

“Our objective is to understand the strengths of all models to — in partnership with the community — develop sustainable, scalable, effective ways to connect people with durable supports that promote health, safety and well being. We will work to create a public health-driven approach that results in improved outcomes for residents and communities," Zone 1 Commander Christopher Ragland said. 

Lydia Morin, executive director of CONNECT, said "CONNECT is always proud to partner with our members like City of Pittsburgh, with support from Allegheny County Health Department, to listen and respond to the needs of our community and public safety, and our collaborative works to continue developing public health-informed diversion programs to provide support for the people who use drugs in our region." 



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Timothy McNulty
Communications Director
Mayor's Office