PCAO Diversion Program touted for its success, national recognition

FLORENCE, AZ (November 15th, 2023) - County Attorney Volkmer updated the Board of Supervisors Wednesday about the success of the Diversion Program and the national recognition that it recently received in improving behavioral health outcomes.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office Diversion Program allows eligible defendants to earn a dismissal of the charge if they successfully complete a set of criteria tailored to their individual case and circumstances.

On Wednesday, County Attorney Volkmer informed the Board of Supervisors that in August, the program was chosen as one of the 10 inaugural programs that will serve as model examples for the national Criminal Justice-Mental Health Learning Site Program.

Essentially, PCAO will be looked to for sharing expertise and knowledge with other criminal justice and mental health agencies and organizations about how to run a diversion program.

“That is an amazing accomplishment,” Volkmer said.

Volkmer noted the unique differences to PCAO’s Diversion Program, such as relying much more on a battery of assessments to identify, and thus treat, the underlying issue, rather than setting participants on a predetermined tract. A team of Diversion Officers works closely alongside the participants to ensure compliance in the program and that they are getting all of the resources they need.

Volkmer noted the old tale of ‘humpty dumpty,’ in that we’ve all fallen and broken, and needed to be made whole again.

“How can we help fill in those gaps and help fill in those pieces?” Volkmer said of those entering the program.

Volkmer noted the recidivism rate for those who go to prison is 83% within nine years of release, according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The recidivism rate is less than 5% for those who complete the PCAO Diversion Program.

“We should be doing everything we can to ensure they never come back [to the criminal justice system],” said Volkmer.

Nearly 3,500 people have entered the Diversion Program, with 83% successfully completing the program and having all charges dismissed.

Volkmer touted the national recognition as a clear sign that Pinal County is a shining example for other agencies looking to start a similar program.

“[It says] look at Pinal County, they do it right, they are actually focused on behavioral health outcomes,” Volkmer said. “’They are [saying] nationally, come look at them.”

The Diversion Program is set for future growth, such as by expansion into city courts, and the inclusion of additional programs, among other items.