PTAC Holds Inaugural Conference on Pre-Arrest Diversion

By: Karen Maline

Diversion Interagency Collaboration Jail Populations October 1, 2020

This March, the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTAC) held its inaugural National Pre-Arrest Diversion Conference: Seeding Pre-Arrest Diversion Across the United States, to provide information, training, and technical assistance to representatives from jurisdictions across the United States looking to implement pre-arrest diversion or enhance their existing diversion efforts.

Issues like the emerging opioid epidemic and the realization that arrest is not the answer for individuals battling addiction and mental illness have caused a dramatic evolution in the practice of law enforcement. Increasingly, law enforcement leaders are uniting with behavioral and public health professionals to change how they address the needs of their communities. These changes include cultivating or expanding local partnerships, enhancing skills, and exploring innovative ways to expand services in their individual communities. The conference allowed teams of law enforcement, behavioral health, community partners, and other stakeholders to identify shared goals and create extensive strategic plans, with advice and guidance from national experts in order to meet those goals.

Teams and individuals from over 20 jurisdictions attended the conference, including 10 Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) sites: Charleston County, SC; Connecticut (Hartford and New Haven); Cook County, IL; Dane County, WI; Lake County, IL; Lucas County, OH; Minnehaha County, SD; New Orleans; Philadelphia; and Pima County, AZ. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), who co-sponsored the conference and funded the attendance of eight SJC sites, was joined by staff from other SJC strategic allies and partner organizations. These organizations included the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Conference of State Legislatures, National League of Cities, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Policy Research Associates, Pretrial Justice Institute, and the Vera Institute of Justice.

Anchored by Jac Charlier, PTAC co-founder and National Director for Justice Initiatives, Center for Health and Justice at TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), the conference provided an opportunity for attendees to learn about the five frameworks or “pathways” of pre-arrest diversion,  and to hear about examples of each from leaders in communities who are using those particular pathways.  These include:

  • “Self-referral,” which originated in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 2015 as the Angel Program and helped to establish the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI);
  • “Active outreach,” which was discussed by Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, who established the Drug Abuse Response Team (DART) in 2014;
  • “Naloxone Plus,” which works to ensure that individuals who have received Naloxone to reverse the effects of an overdose are then linked to treatment programs;
  • “Officer prevention,” which is exemplified by the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program; and
  • “Officer intervention,” which was represented at the conference by the Leon County (FL) Adult Civil Citation Network.

In addition to offering information about pre-arrest diversion, the conference offered educational sessions to aid in guiding the sites with their strategic planning. While these sessions were crucial to help attendees understand pre-arrest diversion and the context in which it must be practiced, what made this conference unique was the devotion of a full day for facilitated action planning that for many teams, resulted in a plan for implementing pre-arrest diversion that they could present to their partners upon their return home.  Sites were assigned facilitators and put to work filling out Solutions Action Plans and related assessment and planning tools to guide the development and implementation of their pre-arrest diversion program(s).

This conference was a tremendous opportunity for attendees to learn, plan, strategize, and broaden their perspectives about how to think about and use diversion, engage with and listen to their communities, and collaborate better with system partners or pull in new partners.  The PTAC Collaborative plans to hold a second conference next year to feature presentations from jurisdictions that planned or enhanced their pre-arrest diversion efforts at this conference, and to work with representatives from additional jurisdictions wanting to address their community’s challenges in innovative and collaborative ways.

The PTAC Collaborative is an alliance of practitioners in law enforcement, behavioral health, advocacy, research, and public policy, whose purpose is to provide vision, leadership, advocacy, and education to facilitate the practice of pre-arrest diversion across the United States.  Launched in April 2017, PTAC is open to anyone who would like to have a voice in the conversation about pre-arrest diversion.  For more information, contact Karen Maline at