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An alternative to arrest: First-of-its-kind facility opens in Indianapolis

Assessment & Intervention Center on southeast side
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Posted at 2:12 AM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 02:13:10-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Tuesday is opening day at the Assessment and Intervention Center (AIC) in Indianapolis, a facility called the "first-of-its kind" by city leaders.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday to mark the occasion. The Assessment and Intervention Center is the first building to open on the campus of the Community Justice Center on the city's southeast side. By 2022, Marion County courts, the Adult Detention Center and the Sheriff's Office will have moved there from downtown.

The idea behind the AIC is to divert non-violent, low-level offenders to a place where they can get mental health and addiction assessments and referral to appropriate treatment and community services as an alternative to arrest.

“The opening of the AIC represents several years of work reflecting a transformation in thinking about our criminal justice system," said Mayor Joe Hogsett. Our goal is to address rising mental health and addiction needs, and break the cycle of low-level, non-violent offenders trapped in the system largely due to complex social, economic, and health challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated mental illness and substance abuse within our community, and I’m grateful that the AIC will be part of the solution.”

As outlined in a press release from the city, the AIC will serve people with behavioral health or substance use issues in situations where law enforcement is trying to avoid an arrest. It is operated by Eskenazi Health and will provide 24/7 referrals and intakes, withdrawal management, skills training, engagement in daily goal development, and referral to long-term mental health and treatment services.

“Our team is proud to be part of this transformative, recovery-oriented model of care to better meet the needs of our community,” said Dr. Ashley Overley, CEO of Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center. “The AIC will offer support to those who need it most, reduce barriers to accessing a variety of services in our community, and provide a lifeline and path out of the criminal justice system for those struggling in our city.”

As many as 40% of Marion County jail inmates have been diagnosed with mental illness, and up to 85% of inmates suffer from some form of addiction. Mental health challenges and addiction issues are on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we open the AIC, we are opening much more than just a new building—we are opening ourselves to a new way of meeting our community’s needs,” said City-County Council President Vop Osili. “The AIC offers a community resource other than the emergency room or jail to provide support and care for those struggling with mental illness or addiction. It will be a powerful force for equity in the criminal justice and health care systems.”