The Philosophy of Diversion:

The Essex District Attorney’s Drug Diversion Program is a pre-arraignment and post-arraignment program for non-violent offenders with substance abuse issues, primarily between the ages of 17-26, who are charged with drug-related offenses. This program seeks to reduce drug abuse and improve public safety by offering treatment.  The program provides eligible candidates the opportunity to receive comprehensive substance abuse treatment services in lieu of being prosecuted through the traditional court process.  Cases involving possession of drugs may be eligible; however, offenders charged with possession with intent to distribute or drug trafficking will be vigorously prosecuted and are not eligible for the program.

The clinical evaluations and treatment plans are administered by Project COPE, an affiliate of Bridgewell. Treatment includes appropriate inpatient and outpatient services, and support designed to help young adults become drug-free, functioning members of society. If a participant fails to complete all treatment components, they will be prosecuted.

Young people identified by the District Attorney’s Office as eligible to enter the Essex District Attorney’s Drug Diversion Program will:

  • Obtain a thorough clinical evaluation.
  • Receive intensive treatment planning and treatment options.
  • Be subject to strong case management, including drug screening when applicable.

Compliance is recognized as consistent and confirmed participation in appropriate treatment modalities, weekly case management with a Diversion Clinical Case Manager, and the consistent maintenance of sobriety from all illicit, non-prescribed substances and alcohol.

Role of the Clinical Intake and Assessment Coordinator:

The Clinical Intake and Assessment Coordinator conducts intakes at courts throughout Essex County for clients referred by the District Attorney’s Office. The Clinical Intake Coordinator is responsible for assessing and implementing the immediate safety needs of newly referred clients.  This includes the coordination and referral to a medical detox, emergency psychiatric evaluation, an intensive outpatient program or residential program.

Other services may include addressing homelessness, an unsafe home life, and/or any other concerns impacting immediate safety needs.  Following the initial intake, the case is assigned to a Clinical Case Manager.

Initial Intake to Case Management:

The Clinical Case Manager will contact the client the same day and support the client in their treatment program. An initial case management session will be scheduled within a week of the clinical intake.  A client’s ongoing treatment plan is developed and implemented by the Clinical Case Manager; however, a client’s input is also part of the process to determine what could be most beneficial to their recovery. Relapse is not always a basis for returning a client to court for prosecution and a treatment plan may be amended at any time based on an enhanced level of care needed. All treatment plans are based on the needs of the individual.

Role of the Clinical Case Manager:

The Clinical Case Manager provides weekly clinical case management for clients referred by the District Attorney’s Office. The Clinical Case Manager is responsible for implementing individualized treatment plans based on a client’s addiction and mental health needs. They are also responsible for coordinating and securing treatment modality appointments for the client. Based on a client’s needs, this may also include enrolling for MassHealth, identifying a Primary Care Physician, securing services through the Department of Transitional Assistance, accessing job placement services, and other supportive services that could contribute to stability.

The Clinical Case Manager will provide support and supervision for participants, and will act as the liaison among the client, treatment providers, and the District Attorney’s Office. Treatment plans may be amended and enhanced at any time based on a shift in the client’s needs.  If a client struggles to follow their treatment plan, they may be allowed to remain in the program if they are willing to recommit to their recovery and sobriety.  The Clinical Case Manager will work to secure appropriate services so that a client will meet treatment goals and, when appropriate, will work with a client’s family to better understand the disease of addiction, and support the client in a therapeutic way.

Client Need:

The needs of all clients are complex and unique. Therefore, success cannot be measured in the same manner for all. For some, maintaining sobriety even for one day is a success. The needs of opiate dependent clients are often the most complex.

Many of the heroin dependent clients face similar challenges in confronting their addiction.

These challenges include:

  • The chronicity of their disease. Many clients have been heroin dependent for over a year. Some may have been sporadically involved in treatment and some clients may have received no treatment at all. As a result, these clients must become educated about the disease of addiction, and must accept that it can successfully be managed long-term.
  • The illegal behaviors that brought the clients to the attention of the court system.  These offenses include possession of heroin, prostitution, breaking and entering, and larceny. In many cases, these illegal offenses are acts of desperation to support their addiction. 

The Essex District Attorney’s Drug Diversion Program seeks to support all clients to achieve their goals of recovery and sobriety. Completing Diversion requires participation in a continuum of treatment interventions and case management for a period of at least six months consistent with these program goals.

Clinical Interventions:

Research shows that with appropriate clinical interventions and treatment, recovery is possible. The comprehensive interventions utilized may include:

  • Intensive outpatient (IOP) day programming specifically designed for juveniles or young-adults.
  • Professionally facilitated directed groups including Early Recovery and Relapse Prevention.
  • Opiate Replacement Therapy.
  • Individual therapy to address addiction and/or mental health needs.
  • Psychiatric Evaluations.
  • Long and Short-Term Residential Treatment.
  • Detoxification and Maintenance.
  • Self-Help: Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings/identifying a sponsor
  • Vocational and rehabilitation services.
  • AIDS/HIV testing and support.

The longer a client is involved in ongoing treatment, the greater the chance of that client being able to maintain long-term sobriety and recovery.


Clients are provided with a continuum of care. When a Diversion client completes the program, they can expect to have their housing, employment, and educational needs addressed with a concrete plan of continued addiction and mental health treatment. The Clinical Case Manager will make recommendations and referrals to meet a client’s anticipated needs for the six months following Diversion. Project COPE is always available to former clients should they need additional support after leaving the program.