OCEAN COUNTY – A program that diverts veterans from jail into mental health or substance abuse treatment instead will get financial support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato said his Veterans Diversion Program will get an initial $237,986 grant, with a possible additional $1.3 million through 2023.
The county has worked with Ocean Mental Health Services since March 2016. This grant will allow its veteran program to expand, putting veterans into needed treatment without filing criminal charges.
“The veterans initiative component was developed as OCPO examined the need to improve services for individuals in the criminal justice system who have a serious and persistent mental illness, and whose illness has been a contributing factor to their justice system involvement,” the prosecutor’s office said.
The Ocean County Prosecutor-led Mental Health Diversion Pilot Program was created in July 2014. It finished its first year with a dozen individuals who were determined to be program-appropriate. Veterans seemed to require more intense treatment than other candidates, which led to the creation of the special program for vets.
The prosecutor’s office said the goals of the Veterans Diversion Program are to increase training for police officers who are veterans, decrease wait times for jailed veteran screening times, more quickly get jailed veterans mental health and substance abuse treatment, more quickly get VA records to assess necessary treatment, ensure continuity of care, and closely monitor medication administration and compliance.
“It is also expected that sustainability of this program will be achieved through fewer jail days, decrease reapplication of cost savings achieved through the decrease in in additional delays, and the streamlining of criminal case files for veterans with serious mental illness,” the prosecutor’s office said.