Diversion First Program To Be Discussed at Wednesday Presentation

The Fairfax League of Women Voters is set to host a public presentation on Fairfax County’s Diversion First program.

The event will be on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne (1609-A Washington Plaza N.). 

The presentation will include a panel led by the Hon. John Cook, Braddock District supervisor and chairman of the Board’s Public Safety Committee. On the panel will be law enforcement members such as Lt. Ryan Morgan of the Fairfax County Police Department; PFC Janelle Colie of the Fairfax County Office of the Sheriff; and Marissa Farina-Morse, Falls Church Community Services Board Service Director for Diversion First. 

Diversion First was developed to limit the number of mentally ill and disabled people in jail. The county found that it was costing too much money to incarcerate people who needed help rather than jail time, according to information about the program.

The program relies on changing how law enforcement interacts with those with special needs. The county has required officers go through Crisis Intervention Team training so that they can better understand mental illnesses and learn how to de-escalate conflicts. The hope is that officers will be able to make informed decisions when confronting those with mental illnesses.

Part of the program allows officers to transfer nonviolent offenders to the CIT-trained officer or deputy assigned to the Merrifield Crisis Prevention Center. A law enforcement official is on duty at least 21 1/2 hours a day, every day of the week.

For more information about Wednesday’s event, visit the website of the League or call 703-658-9150.

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