California mental health diversion is a pretrial program that gets allows eligible people to receive mental health treatment rather than entering the U.S. criminal justice system. The program is based on the belief that in some cases treatment is a better option than putting a mentally ill person in jail when mental health treatment would be more effective at preventing recidivism.
To qualify for mental health diversion, a person’s psychological disorder must play a role in their alleged crime. For instance, a person with PTSD might have a flashback that causes them to assault those around them. This is a crime the person wouldn’t have committed if they didn’t have PTSD, and they were not necessarily aware of what was happening.
In this case, the person’s mental health is relevant to their criminal defense, and this means the person is possibly eligible for mental health diversion.
An evaluation by a mental health professional is also necessary. The professional must confirm that the person does have a mental illness that is likely to respond well to treatment. The court must also determine that the person isn’t a risk to themselves or others. There may be other stipulations that must be followed such as required medication compliance.
Some mental health issues are ineligible for mental health diversion. Prohibited mental health issues include pedophilia, antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.
In order for a mental health disorder to qualify, it must appear in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As of 2023, some qualified mental health issues include bipolar disorder, PTSD and schizophrenia.