DA Kellner launches diversion program to address adult addiction

Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney John Kellner announces a new pilot program to keep some adults charged with drug possession out of the criminal justice system and instead get them into substance abuse counseling.

“There is no question that too many people in our community struggle with addiction issues. Rather than see them in and out of courtrooms, it makes more sense and is more compassionate to find a way to get them help in addressing the underlying problem,” said DA Kellner. “This pilot program is a first step in testing a way to do more of that.”

He added: “Drug overdose deaths increased 29 percent nationwide in 2020 during the pandemic. The CDC reports that in Colorado, our numbers increased more than 37 percent, to 1,512. Now is the time to take action to address addiction and possibly save lives.”

The Recovery Diversion Program targets adults with limited or no criminal history who are charged with possessing a small amount of illegal drugs. These cases will be identified and the defendants will be notified that are eligible for Recovery Diversion. The defendants who opt in will be responsible for contacting our community mental health partner, AllHealth Network, to schedule a screening for substance abuse treatment. 

Defendants who follow with recommended treatment – typically the screening and 3-6 appointments, as determined by AllHealth Network – will get the benefit of Diversion, and the charges will be dismissed. 

“We know that successful treatment works in addressing addiction issues in juveniles,” said Diversion Director Sarah Ericson. “I am excited to be able to expand our efforts to eligible adults. If we can work with them to get help, they can avoid a criminal record and perhaps start down a new road that doesn’t include arrests and prosecutions.”

The pilot program started with 20 participant slots and will add capacity every couple weeks. A three-year sample of cases in the jurisdiction identified between 800 and 1,000 cases that might have been eligible for Recovery Diversion.

Metrics will be collected to track completion rates, recidivism, connection to care and how long the participant continued with a treatment provider.

The exact eligibility criteria for Recovery Diversion and details of the program can be found on our website: https://www.da18.org/specialized-court-units/diversion/recovery-diversion-program/

Recovery Diversion is an additional option and does not replace our existing Adult Diversion or the 18th Judicial District’s Recovery Court and other problem-solving courts.

Defendants are responsible for the cost of the program, which should be covered by most health insurance plans including Medicaid.  For those who may need financial assistance with co-pays, funding is available through Colorado’s Office of Behavioral Health.  We look forward to partnering with AllHealth Network in this capacity with the goal to add further community treatment and substance use providers as the program grows.

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