Colonial Inn
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United States

Police chiefs in eight Middlesex County communities, which have formed a coalition to share resources and better manage cases for mental health and a Regional Jail Diversion Program, have secured a clinical coordinator to assist residents in need and to implement individual department plans and initiatives.

Alia Toran-Burrell is the regional clinical coordinator at Eliot Community Human Services, the coalition’s partner health care system that provides mental health first aid and crisis intervention team training.

As clinical coordinator, Toran-Burrell will manage the Jail Diversion Program across all communities. Her primary role will be to train officers in mental health first aid and to serve on a regional crisis intervention team. The coordinator will also work with each department to create a diversion strategy that is appropriate for any individual who comes in contact with police.

Toran-Burrell has 10 years of experience in the social work field. She began at a public defender’s office in the Bronx, where she supported children and families involved in the criminal justice and foster care systems. She also organized social justice education in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and most recently worked at the Institute for Health and Recovery on youth substance abuse issues in the Boston area.

“If we can look at and treat mental health and substance abuse issues in their infancy, we can make a positive difference in residents’ lives by treating their disease and preventing incarceration,” said Deborah Garfield, director of clinical services at Eliot. “Alia is a great addition to the Eliot team and, with her numerous years of experience in the field, will serve as a vital player in assisting the coalition of Middlesex chiefs achieve their goals.”

To fund the diversion program, the chiefs obtained a three-year $135,000 Massachusetts Department of Mental Health grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Department of Mental Health. The grant will be broken up over the next three fiscal years, with the coalition receiving $45,000 in fiscal 2016 through 2018. There is potential for renewal for fiscal years 2019 through 2023.