Southwest Behavioral signs contract with county to assess felony offenders

County Attorney Bill Montgomery recently signed a contract with Southwest Behavioral Health and Services to provide treatment for certain felony offenders designated as seriously mentally ill, as a part of the office’s Felony Pretrial Intervention Program.

Bill Montgomery. (Submitted photo)

The first of its kind for Maricopa County and Arizona, the new program will be known as the FPIP-SMI Diversion Program; it is scheduled to begin on Aug. 12, according to a press release.

“With the creation of our Diversion Program Bureau, we have been working to expand services for those who are eligible and can best be served through treatment and counseling,” Mr. Montgomery said in a prepared statement.

“By joining with Southwest Behavioral Health as a provider, we can better help those offenders whose criminal actions were likely influenced by mental illness. FPIP-SMI will work with participants to achieve a successful outcome, avoiding prosecution and potential incarceration. More importantly, it will result in people having greater access to mental health treatment and services.”

The FPIP-SMI Diversion Program is designed for adult offenders who meet certain eligibility criteria. They must be designated seriously mentally ill as defined under A.R.S. § 36-550 and will be assessed using the validated Ohio Risk Assessment System.

The ORAS assesses the offender’s risk to reoffend and identifies criminogenic needs. The provider may use additional assessment tools in conjunction with the ORAS to evaluate the offender’s specific clinical needs. If determined to be eligible, prosecution is suspended.

Following the provider’s comprehensive, validated clinical assessment of the offender and the development of a treatment plan, the offender will participate in the Decision Points curriculum, an open-group cognitive-behavioral intervention program.

If the offender successfully completes the curriculum and demonstrates ongoing engagement with their clinical team, MCAO will file a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice, a release states.

If the offender, however, fails to successfully complete these requirements, MCAO will reinstate prosecution.

The Diversion Program Bureau at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is made up of several diversion programs: Check Enforcement, Child Abuse, Drug, Felony Pretrial Intervention Program (FPIP) and Justice Court.

Under authority of the County Attorney, the Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department administers Juvenile Diversion Programs and an Animal Cruelty Diversion Program is currently under development.
FPIP began as a pilot program in 2015, and has now seen approximately 1,200 participants with a 61% success rate.

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