Grady ‘diversion center’ to provide care for homeless picked up by police as alternative to jail

The city of Atlanta, Fulton County and Grady Health System have joined forces to help the homeless. The Atlanta Diversion Center is set up to open at Atlanta Detention Center later this year, the city announced on Tuesday.

The Atlanta City Council approved legislation allowing Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to contract with Grady to operate the center, which will provide a variety of pre-arrest diversion services for those experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges, substance use and poverty.

“I am excited to start this New Year with significant forward progress to realizing our vision of the Diversion Center,” said Mayor Dickens. “The Diversion Center embodies our commitment to treat people with non-violent and quality of life transgressions who are experiencing poverty, homelessness or substance use as neighbors who need our help rather than as criminals who should be punished...”

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The diversion center will provide a variety of care options for people dropped off by law enforcement as an alternative to arrest for minor and non-violent offenses. Some of the offerings will include behavioral health screening and needs assessments, non-emergency medical care; sobering rooms, referrals and transportation to off-site treatment and service organizations, case management and basic legal navigation, warrant resolution; and food, laundry and showers.

Although the center will be housed at the detention center, it will be operated separately.

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The initial one-year agreement with Grady is slated to start this month and can be extended for up to four additional years. The agreement also envisions Grady expanding its work in the second year of the Center’s operation to include health screening and assessment services, in addition to its role as overall operator of the Center.

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