Franklin and Medway Police Jail Diversion Program Offers Options

J.D. O’Gara
Clinician Provides Resource for Officers to Help Those Experiencing Mental Health Issues
Issue Date: 
March, 2019
Article Body: 

“You can’t arrest your way out of these problems.”
That’s the sentiment of Franklin Police Sergeant Brian Johnson of the Franklin Police Department, who worked with Detective Sergeant Matthew Reardon, of the Medway Police Department, regarding its recently implemented Jail Diversion program.
“The premise of the program is for those calls where someone is experiencing some sort of mental health crisis – to get those people the help and the resources they need to maybe help them with the mental health problem rather than put them in the criminal justice system, which doesn’t have a great track record for helping people with mental illness.” Arrest, he says, doesn’t help the long-term solution. “If we can give them access to what they need, we’re not encountering them again,” says Johnson.
Just over a year ago, Johnson was approached by his friend, Det. Sgt. Reardon, on partnering with Medway on a grant by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for the Jail Diversion program. (
“The idea had been around, and it’s been useful to area departments,” says Det. Sgt. Reardon, who, in the pursuit of his master’s degree covered the topic of jail diversion. Medway, he says, started working with a clinician a couple years ago to help with cases involving opioid use.
“We brought them on board as kind of a paid service,” says Reardon, “and the Jail Diversion program kind of stemmed from that.” Through that clinician, Reardon learned that grants were available and got contact information for Sarah Abbott, who ran the Jail Diversion program for Advocates. He also knew Medway would probably need a partner, so he reached out to Franklin.
“I reached out to him, approached Sarah, did surveys and got the data to support the need, and then pursued the grant from there.”
Through this program, a master’s level clinician rides along with police officers on all calls involving individuals in a mental health or substance-related crisis. The clinician provides much needed de-escalation, crisis stabilization, assessment/evaluation services and on-the-job training.
That clinician, who began in December, rides with Medway two days a week and Franklin three days a week, is Kallie Montagano, who works for the agency Advocates (
Since she came on board, Montagano has been a huge asset that is already showing dividends, says Johnson.
“It’s not costing the town anything, and in the long term, it’s saving the town. For every person that’s having a mental health crisis that we keep in the community – we’re not sending them to jail and costing the criminal justice department, and we’re also not sending that person to the ER.” Johnson explains that a diversion from the emergency department generally saves about $4,000 between the cost of an ambulance, physicians’ fees and hospital costs.
“It’s been fantastic,” says Reardon. “Kallie has been an unbelievable resource. She drives with an officer, and when she isn’t busy doing follow-up calls or paperwork, she is able to intervene wherever she’s needed.”
Johnson adds that officers are realizing they can leave Montagano reports when she’s not there, on which she can provide followup.
Officers, says Reardon, are “extremely happy” to have the additional resources. In one recent instance involving a juvenile, he says, “we were able to do exactly what it was designed for and use the resources to address it rather than put the juvenile into the criminal justice system. Anything in today’s age that’s another tool for us to avoid force and avoid arrest – the criminal justice system in many instances is often not the right avenue to address situations – if we have the ability to bring in services to address the underlying causes that are there, that is a win for everybody.”
Johnson points out that the benefit goes way beyond financial.
“It’s just a better way to treat people,” he says. “That’s the community protector hat that we’re wearing. We should actually be helping. And that’s what I think the Police Department does best.”