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Cuyahoga County Diversion Center still underutilized 5 months after opening

Facility labeled a success by mental health board, despite slow start
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 10:50 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - When the Cuyahoga County Diversion Center opened in May, local leaders touted it as an alternative to jail for up to 50 people each night.

Five months later, data obtained by 19 News shows that the facility is being underutilized.

According to the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County (ADAMHS), only 76 people have been admitted to the diversion center since it launched on May 3.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish is joined by other officials at a ribbon cutting for...
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish is joined by other officials at a ribbon cutting for the county's new diversion center.(WOIO)

The majority of them stay only one or two nights, according to the board’s CEO Scott Osiecky.

In other words, the 50-bed facility is nowhere near capacity on any given night.

“It’s the hope that every single police department uses it, and uses it to the best of the diversion center’s ability,” Osiecky said. “We want police to take people there. The whole purpose is to get people the help they need rather than incarceration.”

As of Oct 1, a total of 20 police departments have taken at least one person to the diversion center.

The 76 total admissions is up 26 from less than two weeks ago when the board reported just 50 total admissions.

Of those 50, half came from just three agencies; Cleveland Police, the RTA Police Department and Cleveland Heights Police.

As of those late-September numbers, they’re responsible for ten, nine, and six admissions respectively.

Up-to-date statistics regarding each individual agency are not yet available.

But the initial report is raising concerns.

A county official, not directly involved in the operations of the facility, told 19 News they’re relying on Cleveland police to help bolster the facility’s intake numbers.

While CPD has used the facility more than any other agency, the department makes thousands of arrests each year.

“We know that the city of Cleveland is the largest municipality in Cuyahoga County. They have more people, we’re expecting more folks to be brought in there (because) they have more interactions with people,” said Osiecky.

But he cautions against dwelling on the numbers because many local police departments have not yet been fully trained on when to use the facility as opposed to taking low-level offenders to jail.

A Cleveland police spokesperson told 19 News the agency is currently working on a policy that provides specific diversion center guidelines to its officers.

The hope is that once more agencies are fully trained, the numbers will increase.

The facility evaluates and connects them with appropriate mental health services, which in turn prevents them from being placed under arrest and in the already clogged legal system.

Osiecki shared with 19 News a letter that a recent resident wrote to the facility’s staff, suggesting their method is having a positive impact.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you all do,” he wrote. “I walked in here lost and confused without hope.”

As of Sept 24, the following departments have taken people to the Cuyahoga County Diversion Center:

Cleveland Police: 10

RTA Police: 9

Cleveland Heights Police: 6

Brooklyn Police: 3

Berea Police: 2

Cleveland State University Police: 2

East Cleveland Police: 2

Shaker Heights Police: 2

South Euclid Police: 2

Strongsville Police: 2

University Circle Police: 2

Beachwood Police: 1

Bedford Police: 1

CMHA Police: 1

Fairview Park Police: 1

Maple Heights Police: 1

Parma Heights Police: 1

Solon Police; 1

Westlake Police: 1

Olmsted Falls Police: 1

Since those numbers were released, another 26 people have been admitted to the facility but the breakdown by the department has not been released.

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