DSH Diversion Program

In recent years, California has seen a drastic increase in the referral to state hospitals of patients who are incompetent to stand trial. The state has also experienced a growing homeless population, which has a high prevalence of mental illness (and co-occurring substance use disorder issues). The 2018-19 State Budget includes $100 million General Fund over three years for the expansion and development of county diversion programs, with the majority of funding going to the 15 counties with the highest referrals to state hospitals.

Funding Opportunities

First Round of Funding for Top 15 Counties:

  • Opened: Oct. 10, 2018
  • Closed: Oct. 31, 2018

Second Round of Funding for All Other Counties:

Questions? Contact DSHDiversion@dsh.ca.gov

Technical Assistance Schedule

Webinar: Risk Assessment with Sarah Desmarais – March 1 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Webinar: Determining Eligibility for DSH Diversion – March 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

DSH Diversion Technical Assistance Session for Top 15 Counties: Feb. 8, 2019

  • On Feb. 8, 2019 DSH will host attendees from the Top 15 Counties for a technical assistance session featuring Dr. Barbara McDermott (UC Davis), Dr. Sarah Desmarais (formerly of the Miami-Dade, Florida Forensic Alternative Center), and Hallie Fader-Towe and Deanna Adams of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
  • Agenda


Judicial Council of California, Pretrial Diversion Program, AB 1810 Implementation Webinar

Judicial Council of California, “Serious Mental Health Disorders” webinar, Dec. 13, 2018

Incompetent to Stand Trial Diversion Program, Department of State Hospitals, Sept. 26, 2018

Council of State Governments Justice Center, California Mental Health Diversion Stakeholder Meeting, Sept. 26, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the DSH Diversion Program?

The DSH Diversion Program is a collaboration between DSH and county governments to develop or expand diversion programs for individuals with serious mental illness who face felony charges and could be determined to be Incompetent to Stand Trial (IST). The DSH Diversion Program provides funding to counties to support community mental health treatment and other services for these individuals.

Why is the program needed?

Some people who are Incompetent to Stand Trial committed felonies that stem from serious mental illness or being homeless. They have difficulty accessing mental health services and committing to treatment and often cycle through the criminal justice system. The goal of the DSH Diversion Program is to provide these individuals, when a judge deems it safe and appropriate to do so, with long-term community mental health treatment and other services and to avoid criminal charges and institutionalization.

Who is served by the program?

The DSH Diversion Program provides funding to counties to serve primarily individuals who are:

  • Eligible for diversion under Penal Code Section 1001.35, et. Seq., Diversion of Individuals with Mental Disorders
  • Diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder;
  • Charged with a felony;
  • Not a significant safety risk if treated in the community.

In addition, there must be a significant link between the individual’s mental illness or homelessness and the crime they are charged with.

Who is not served by the program?

By law, individuals charged with the following felony crimes are not eligible for diversion:

  • Rape, murder or involuntary manslaughter;
  • Sexual abuse of a child or a lewd or lascivious act on a child;
  • Assault with intent to commit rape, sodomy, or oral copulation.

How much funding is available?

The three-year program is funded for $100 million, of which $99.5 million is being awarded to counties. The remaining funds are for program support.

Which counties does the program serve?

The majority of funding - $91 million - for the three-year program is available for the 15 counties that refer the greatest number of ISTs to DSH: Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus. A smaller portion of the funding - $8.5 million - is available to other counties, too.

What must county governments do to participate in the program?

To receive funding, county diversion programs are expected to:

  • Provide evidence-based community mental health treatment and wrap-around services.
  • Serve individuals where there is a significant link between their serious mental illness or homelessness and the alleged felony crime and who do not present a significant safety risk if treated in the community.
  • Reduce IST referrals to DSH by 20 percent to 30 percent.
  • Contribute 20 percent of funds; small counties must contribute 10 percent.