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Considerations for Deflection and First Responder Diversion Programs: Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2021
2 pages

This brief by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) describes a trauma-informed approach to addressing substance abuse.


This publication by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) describes trauma-informed approaches to addressing substance abuse, focusing in particular on the Plymouth County Outreach (PCO) program, a deflection initiative reaching 27 communities in southeastern Massachusetts. Taking steps to develop deflection programs that help connect children with treatment and services through prevention and intervention efforts can help interrupt the impacts of trauma and produce positive outcomes for children. Deflection offers first responders a way to implement such programs through partnerships among law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service agencies, treatment and service providers, and schools. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are an established, evidence-based measure of the medical and mental health consequences that can arise from exposure to trauma and stress in childhood. “Trauma-informed care” (TIC), one approach to addressing such cases, involves several steps, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): realizing the widespread impact of trauma and understanding potential paths for recovery; recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma; fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and seeking to actively resist re-traumatization. Understanding trauma is an important part of responding to calls in a trauma-informed approach. The PCO program followed the SAMHSA steps to address TIC in a process that built on PCO’s existing infrastructure, according to East Bridgewater Police Chief Scott Allen. The publication concludes with the following recommendations: look for available trainings on trauma and trauma-informed care, such as those found at SAMHSA’s National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare; explore resources on childhood trauma and ACEs, such as those provided by the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children and other organizations; and identify child and family support service providers in your community.