Coalition of Police Departments Secure a Clinical Coordinator for Jail Diversion Program

Submitted on behalf of the Bedford Police Department

BPDpatchBedford Police Chief Robert Bongiorno is among the chiefs in eight Middlesex County communities which have formed a coalition to share resources and better manage cases for mental health and a Regional Jail Diversion Program, are pleased to announce that they have secured a Clinical Coordinator to assist residents in need and to implement individual department plans and initiatives.

The police partnership, developed through the Concord District Court and the Regional Jail Diversion Program, is managed by departments in Bedford, Lincoln, Stow, Concord, Lexington, Acton, Carlisle, Maynard and Hanscom Air Force Base. They are committed to assisting people with mental health difficulties and diverting them from the criminal justice system.

“We know that assaults, larcenies and property crimes are often committed by those with mental health or substance abuse issues,” Acton Police Chief Francis Widmayer said. “Our goal when we began this coalition was to put residents into treatment instead of behind bars. With the assistance of our clinical coordinator, who will train officers in all our communities on how best to respond to mental health or substance abuse related incidents, we can reduce crimes and change lives.”

Alia Toran-Burrell will serve as the new regional Clinical Coordinator at Eliot Community Human Services, the coalition’s partner healthcare system that provides mental health first aid and crisis intervention team training.

As Clinical Coordinator, Toran-Burrell will manage the Jail Diversion Program across all communities. Her primary role will be to train officers in mental health first aid and to serve on a regional Crisis Intervention Team. The coordinator will also work with each department to create a diversion strategy that is appropriate for any individual who comes in contact with police.

Toran-Burrell has 10 years experience in the social work field. She began at a public defender’s office in the Bronx, N.Y., where she supported children and families involved in the criminal justice and foster care systems. She also organized social justice education in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich., and most recently worked at the Institute for Health and Recovery on youth substance abuse issues in the Boston area.

“If we can look at and treat mental health and substance abuse issues in their infancy, we can make a positive difference in residents’ lives by treating their disease and preventing incarceration,” Deborah Garfield, Director of Clinical Services at Eliot said. “Alia is a great addition to the Eliot team, and with her numerous years of experience in the field, will serve as a vital player in assisting the coalition of Middlesex chiefs achieve their goals.”

To fund the diversion program, the chiefs obtained a three-year $135,000 Massachusetts Department of Mental Health grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Department of Mental Health. The grant will be broken up over the next three fiscal years, with the coalition receiving $45,000 in fiscal 2016, 2017 and 2018. There is potential for renewal for fiscal years 2019 through 2023.

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