Law Enforcement/First Responder Diversion and Referral Mentoring Initiative

The Law Enforcement/First Responder Diversion and Referral Mentoring Initiative provides communities interested in starting diversion and/or referral programs the opportunity to learn from established or innovative programs that have shown success in meeting the treatment needs of individuals with a substance use disorder, and in some cases may have experienced an overdose. Seven programs were selected to serve as mentors for communities interested in starting programs or for established programs interested in learning innovative practices to enhance their existing initiatives. The mentor programs selected by BJA represent a variety of diversion and referral pathways, operate in distinctly different manners, and are located in diverse settings throughout the nation.

BJA anticipates that each mentor site will host approximately five mentee sites per year and also provide virtual consultation. During site visits, mentors will provide opportunities for observation and peer-to-peer exchanges, including opportunities to observe the law enforcement/first responder diversion or referral program in action and allowing mentee sites to engage with program personnel.

The scope of this effort is limited to programs that have been created to serve individuals with opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders (not including marijuana) that have substantial law enforcement, fire services, or EMS engagement. Diversion or referral programs operated by prosecutors or the courts are not within the scope of this effort. Likewise, programs with a primary focus on addressing homelessness, untreated mental health disorders, and/or public nuisance offenses are not within the scope of this effort.

What Is Law Enforcement/First Responder Diversion and Referral?


Law enforcement and other first responders are on the front lines of addressing illicit substance use and misuse, frequently encountering individuals with substance use disorder and responding to drug overdose calls. A variety of multidisciplinary overdose prevention, response, and diversion and referral pathways, led by law enforcement and other first responders, have emerged in communities throughout the nation. These pathways often include first responders working in partnership with substance abuse treatment providers and peer recovery coaches to help individuals access treatment and recovery support services.

Five pathways have been most commonly associated with opioid use disorder. These pathways are listed below:


  • Self-Referral Pathway:

    An individual voluntarily initiates contact with a first responder (a law enforcement, fire services, or EMS professional) seeking access to treatment (without fear of arrest) and receives a referral to a treatment provider.

  • Active Outreach Pathway:

    A law enforcement officer or other first responder identifies or seeks out individuals in need of substance abuse treatment; a referral is made to a treatment provider, who engages them in treatment.

  • Naloxone Plus Pathway:

    A law enforcement officer or other first responder engages an individual in treatment as part of an overdose response.

  • First Responder/Officer Prevention Referral Pathway:

    A law enforcement officer or other first responder initiates treatment engagement, but no criminal charges are filed.

  • Officer Intervention Referral Pathway:

    A law enforcement officer initiates treatment engagement; charges are filed and held in abeyance or a citation is issued.

Diamond shaped graphic accent