Mental Health Diversion

Recently, mental health issues have gained a lot of statewide and national attention. An increase in health research, legal reforms, and knowledgeable service providers have benefitted many who suffer from mental illness. Recognition of these issues is especially important in the criminal justice system. Facing a criminal charge is hard enough, and that difficulty can be compounded for defendants who struggle with mental health issues. Fortunately, Florida courts provide a program for mentally ill criminal defendants to avoid jail time in lieu of treatment.

What Is the Diversion Program?

The mental health diversion program is designed to aid mentally ill criminal defendants. Lawmakers, judges, and mental health experts agree that jail time is not always the appropriate sentence for defendants with mental health issues. Often, serving time can interfere with necessary medical and therapeutic treatment. Jail time could also exacerbate a condition, making rehabilitation that much more difficult. Instead of jail time, the mental health diversion program allows certain defendants to pursue treatment for their conditions. There are strict eligibility requirements, so the program may not be available for every mentally ill defendant. However, this program may be beneficial for you or your loved one who is facing criminal charges.


When you apply for the mental health diversion program, you will have to prove your illness to the court. This may seem like an overwhelming task, but it is an essential step to getting into the diversion program and avoiding jail time. Courts require medical documentation of mental illness for the purposes of these programs. In other words, you will need to request certain information from your physician, psychiatrist, and/or other healthcare providers. Some common types of medical documentation include:

  • Diagnoses;
  • Prescriptions;
  • Medical charts;
  • Evidence of treatment/therapy;
  • Evidence of hospital stays; and
  • Letter from your doctor/care provider.

If you qualify for the program, you will be required to complete certain steps. Remember, your involvement in the diversion program is the result of a criminal charge. Generally, defendants are required to remain in the program for at least 12 months. A common requirement for participants in the mental health diversion program is regular meetings with a counselor. These meetings are designed for your benefit, but are mandatory like all other requirements of your participation. During this time, you will have to communicate with the court or your case manager regarding your treatment. It is important to hold onto any and all documentation that shows you are doing what the court ordered. The mental health diversion counselors may also assist in seeking further treatment and/or appropriate treatment facilities such as the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospitals. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you determine eligibility for the program, and fight for your case in court.

Former Prosecutors Help Criminal Defendants

If you or a loved one suffers from a mental illness and has recently been charged with a crime, contact Moses & Rooth today. Our criminal defense attorneys have experience working with defendants in your position. We will work closely with you to determine your eligibility for the mental health diversion program. Both of our attorneys are former prosecutors, so we know how to work with the other side. We strive to provide excellent representation to every client, and will create a unique defense strategy tailored to your needs. If you live in the Orlando area, contact our firm for a free initial consultation today.