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Gillette is participating in a pilot Program that offers an alternative for those with mental health struggle

A mural at Gillette's downtown 3rd Street Plaza.
(Will Walkey/Wyoming Public Media)
A mural at Gillette's downtown 3rd Street Plaza.

The Campbell County Adult Diversion Court is a secondary option for individuals in the criminal justice system facing mental health issues. It has just begun its two-year trial run. It is the only such program in the state.

Chad Beeman, head of the Campbell County adult treatment courts, said the program began after reviewing a similar program in Miami.

“So a group of individuals, mainly judges, went to Miami last year to observe a similar program. That's what ours is based off of, kind of their model, but obviously to fit our population,” said Beeman.

This was part of a larger, long-term goal. The travel to Miami gave them valuable information for a similar program in Gillette but allowed officials to discuss a more national problem.

“There's not enough services for mental health,” said Beeman. The goal is to build up stats to show the need, hopefully, to bring a clinic eventually to Gillette to allow people to not only detox but have a place to go.“

The core of the diversion court is to give those with treatable mental health conditions alternatives to standard punishments. If an individual who commits a non-violent misdemeanor is believed to have a related mental health condition, then they may be referred to the diversion program by a law enforcement officer or court. If the referral happens, then Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit, will provide the mental health screening service. After that, the adult treatment courts in Campbell County would monitor the individual's progress through a diversion program.

“So we would act much like a probation office doing the supervision, home visits, employment checks, making sure they're getting to treatment,” said Beeman.

If the individual passes the program then their charges would be dropped.

While similar court programs exist, Beeman explained how this variation is focused more on the prevention of individuals entering the justice system.

“This would act like a bond release condition because they're not sentenced,” said Beeman. “This one is not post-sentence…so as long as they meet the requirements, that charge could eventually go away.”

In addition to Volunteers of America producing the primary screening services, law enforcement will receive relevant training as well. Police are being taught “crisis intervention team training, so they'll have some predetermined questions where they can ask to get kind of a brief screening,” explained Beeman.

The program is expected to continue through 2026, at which time Beeman hopes to collect more data that can be shared with other counties in the state looking for ways to address mental health issues in their community.

Jordan Uplinger was born in NJ but has traveled since 2013 for academic study and work in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He gained experience in a multitude of areas, including general aviation, video editing, and political science. In 2021, Jordan's travels brought him to find work with the Wyoming Conservation Corps as a member of Americorps. After a season with WCC, Jordan continued his Americorps service with the local non-profit, Feeding Laramie Valley. His deep interest in the national discourse on class, identity, American politics and the state of material conditions globally has led him to his current internship with Wyoming Public Radio and NPR.
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