Workshop held to keep people with mental health and substance abuse problems out of jail

Hampshire County

There’s an effort in Hampshire County to keep people with mental health and substance abuse challenges out of the criminal justice system.

A two-day community justice workshop wrapped up in Northampton on Tuesday. The goal for the workshop is to find ways to keep at-risk people out of jail.

Officials from criminal justice, behavioral health, and substance misuse treatment centers met at the Northampton Senior Center Tuesday, to come up with ways to help people with mental health and substance abuse challenges avoid incarceration.

“What we’re really trying to do is make sure that people with mental illness and addiction get connected with good community-based treatment as early as possible if they are justice involved so they don’t continue cycling through the justice system because their behavioral health needs aren’t met,” Marisa Hebble from the Massachusetts Trial Court.

Currently, The Northwestern District Attorney’s Drug Diversion and Treatment program gives non-violent offenders with substance use disorders the opportunity for treatment, instead of being put in jail.

“Public service agencies need to be more collaborative on what we do on a daily basis,” Hampshire County Sheriff, Patrick Cahillane said. “We have to be more open and more communicative in what we do.”

“Hampshire HOPE” addresses the rise in prescription opioid misuse, heroin use and overdose death in Hampshire County. The organization hopes this workshop will help people before it’s too late.

“We’ve talked about a variety of ideas and that could include anything from specialty courts to training among criminal justice providers,” Cherry Sullivan from Hampshire Hope said.

Similar workshops have been held in Greenfield, Holyoke, and Springfield.

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