Diversion Programs: Procuring Funding

How Will You Pay For It?

  • Overview

    SupportProcuring the financial resources to start up and sustain any new program or initiative in the community is critical. One of the main goals of diversion is to save costs and resources to the juvenile justice system by diverting youths away from expensive formal processing.

    One technique you can use to demonstrate the expected cost savings from the diversion program you propose is a return on investment (ROI) analysis. An ROI analysis would provide you with the estimated cost of crimes reduced by implementing a program, minus the expense of implementing the program; this is then divided by the cost of implementing the program. ROIs for delinquency treatment programs vary from $1 to $98 in savings for every dollar spent, depending on the program type and state. Therefore, funding diversion programs from the beginning is important to realize the long-term benefits of cost savings.

    The information below discusses several different funding sources to consider. However, because of the diversity in the types of diversion programs that can be implemented, funding opportunities may be broad. For example, there may be more funding available for diversion programs that target youths with mental health problems (because of the number of agencies and organizations that support this issue) than for other types of programs. It is important, once you have selected a certain type of diversion program to implement, to explore specific funding that may be available in that area.

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  • Steps to Take: Lessons Learned from the Research

    Steps to Take:  Lessons Learned from the Research

    Consider all sources of funding.

    • Explore the variety of funding opportunities available, including federal and state sources, and nongovernmental organizations.

    Determine funding/resources needed to implement a diversion program.

    • Consider methods to save on costs such as using federal resources (like Medicaid) and unpaid volunteers.
    • Find funding for program evaluations to ensure program goals are met and to improve the program if implementation is not going as expected.

    Ensure ongoing funding.

    • Present estimated cost savings in support of continuation of the diversion program.
    • Use the results of ROIs and cost-effectiveness evaluations to help make decisions on what programs to implement, sustain, and remove.
    • Consider All Sources of Funding

      A variety of federal, state, or local sources may offer money to help you start a diversion program. Funding may be specifically earmarked for implementing diversion programs, or it may fall within a related category of juvenile justice or other prevention programs.

      • Explore the variety of funding opportunities available, including federal and state sources, and nongovernmental organizations.
      • Federal Sources. At the federal level, agencies that focus attention on juveniles, court services, and diversion may offer a number of funding opportunities. The table below provides information on a few federal sources, and how these sources can be used to find more information about funding.

        Federal Source

        How to Use It
        • Search for funding opportunities across all federal agencies
        • Custom search engine that allows you to search by specific agencies or specific youth topics such as juvenile justice and diversion.
        U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (OJP)
        • Offices under OJP include the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which recently put out a solicitation for justice and mental health collaborations (including diversion programs).
        • Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) grants from BJA are also another source of federal funding.
        • The Grants 101 Web site provides an overview of the OJP application process.

        Other Useful Information...
        In 2016, the National Juvenile Justice Network released a Fiscal Policy Center Toolkit, which provides information on how to find and use Byrne JAG funding for juvenile justice reform, including the implementation of diversion programming.

        Remember: The amount of funding offered by government agencies depends on many factors, especially how much is set aside by Congress. Funding may be available one year and then cut or eliminated the next. Therefore, you’ll need to research funding opportunities every year.

        Also, keep in mind that there may be a substantial amount of time in between submitting a proposal for consideration and receiving an award. For example, some government agencies may release funding opportunity announcements as early as February or March, but not make official award announcements until August or September, with funding potentially not beginning until January of the next year.

        The Adolescent Diversion Project (ADP) in Michigan began with funding from a large-scale federal grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. After more than 10 years of financial support from federal grants, the program continued with local funding from the justice system. However, transitioning from federal, external funding to local funding did present some challenges. For example, ADP was shown to reduce recidivism (and therefore reduce the number of youths seen by the courts), which translated into cost savings for the juvenile justice system; however, some members of the juvenile court system viewed the program as a threat to their jobs. To offset this fear, the local legislative branch chose to support the continuation of the ADP by funding the program with money from outside the justice system’s budget. As a result, the ADP is primarily run through Michigan State University. The university receives funding from the county to provide faculty support, supervision of university student volunteers, and year-round training. This program is an example of not only alternative sources of funding, but also funding issues that can arise during implementation (for more information on implementation issues, see Handling Unanticipated Problems or Setbacks).

      • State Sources. Jurisdictions may find funding resources available at the state level. For example, the Special Needs Diversionary Program (SNDP) began with funding from the State of Texas under the Enhanced Mental Health Services Initiative, which provided money to increase mental health services for adults and juveniles who offend. The SNDP program is targeted at juveniles with mental illness, and therefore was eligible for funding under the initiative. The program initially received $5 million for local mental health providers to deliver services to juveniles on probation, and $2 million to support specialized juvenile probation officers.

        Another example of a program that began with state funding is the Ohio Behavioral Health Juvenile Justice (BHJJ) Initiative. The program initially received state funding to conduct pilot projects of BHJJ in three counties. When the pilot project showed success in reducing the number of youths with behavioral health issues committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS), the state allocated further resources to expand the project and fund several more counties. Funding was also provided to local behavioral health agencies for delivery of needed treatment to youths in a community setting. The cost of the program is now shared between the ODYS and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. This blended funding approach means that the financial burden is not placed solely on one agency, which can help ensure greater sustainability of the diversion program (for more information on sustainability, see Ensure Long-Term Sustainability).
      • State Advisory Groups (SAGs)
        Information on funding at the state or local level will vary by location and can include the county probation agency, municipal/county/state court, state or county behavioral health agency, county/state commissioner’s office, designated funds from state legislatures, or state advisory groups (SAGs). For a list of each state’s SAG chair visit:

      • Nongovernmental organizations. There may be sources of funding available outside of government such as nonprofit organizations or private foundations. For example, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation selected Texas as one of four states to form the Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network, from which the Front End Diversion Initiative (FEDI) was developed. Similarly, the Indianapolis Family Group Conferencing Experiment received funding from the Lilly Endowment―a private philanthropic foundation that supports causes of religion, education, and community development—to conduct a 3-year study on the use of restorative justice conferences as a response to crime. The program also received funding from the Donner Foundation (another private foundation) and from OJJDP. The program also provides an example of obtaining funding from multiple sources, including government and nongovernmental organizations.

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    • Determine Funding/Resources Needed to Implement a Diversion Program

      Determining a budget is a difficult but crucial part of the pre-implementation process. Regardless of where you are in your funding search, you will need to think about how much money it will take to start and sustain the program. This can be complicated because many factors will affect the budget. Costs will depend on the specific program you choose, as well as the funding and resources already available in the court system and community. For example, some communities may already have community-based treatment and services for youth, while other communities will need to consider developing these services (for more information about creating an inventory of programs and services in your community, see Conduct Community Needs Assessment).

      There may be specific costs tied to training that will be important to consider as well. For example, costs to train staff to implement the program not only include the costs for trainers and materials, but also staff overtime (if staff are trained outside of usually working hours, or if their shifts need to be covered by others). It is important to consider all of the factors that can impact the bottom-line of the budget for a diversion program.

      • Consider methods to save on costs such as using federal resources (like Medicaid) and unpaid volunteers. Because some diversion programs may target specific youth populations, such as those with behavioral health issues, there may be other sources of federal funding to consider such as Medicaid. For example, given that the Special Needs Diversionary Program (SNDP) targets juveniles who display low levels of conduct and mental health disorders, mental health service providers were encouraged to bill Medicaid, when possible, for services they provided to youths in the program. A report later found that about $1.7 million in federal matching funds was generated through Medicaid. This is a different approach to funding a diversion program because it relies on federal and state funding, as well as funding that comes from outside the juvenile justice system.

        The Adolescent Diversion Project (ADP) in Michigan found that using university students (who received course credit and weren’t paid) was found to cost substantially less than using community college students and community volunteers, without reducing program effectiveness. Similarly, the Reading for Life (RFL) program also uses volunteers as mentors, including college students, retired teachers, and business owners from the community. In addition to cost savings, results from a qualitative study of RFL suggested that youths in the program reacted more positively to the fact that mentors volunteered, instead of being paid.

      • Find funding for program evaluations to ensure program goals are met and to improve the program if implementation is not going as expected. Once programs are in operation, you should conduct rigorous evaluations to ensure that expected goals are being achieved. Moreover, if the program is not working as expected, evaluations can provide insight about modifying the program in some way. Evaluations can also help to secure continued funding in the future, if the results show a positive impact on youth and cost savings to the system (for more information on conducting process and outcome evaluations, see Ensure Long-Term Sustainability).

        However, evaluations can be time-consuming and costly, so it is useful to consider separate funding options in advance. For example, the Hudson Institute received funding through OJJDP’s Field Initiated Research and Evaluation (FIRE) grant program to evaluate Indianapolis Family Group Conferencing Experiment. The FIRE grant program continues to be funded by OJJDP. Likewise, the Center for Court Innovation received funding from the New York Community Trust to evaluate the policies and early impacts of the Adolescent Diversion Program in New York State.

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    • Ensure Ongoing Funding

      It can take some time to get a diversion program fully up and running. Although initial funding may be provided, you should also start thinking about other sources to maintain funding from the beginning. It is also important to consider ways in which cost savings of the program can help to ensure continued support and sustainability of the program (for more information, see Ensure Long-Term Sustainability).

      • Present cost savings in support of continuation of the diversion program. One of the main goals of diversion programs is to save money and resources by diverting youths from the juvenile court system to less expensive community-based services. Thus, it is important for diversion programs to ultimately show that they achieve this cost-saving goal. For example, a study of the Adolescent Diversion Project (ADP) in Michigan found that placing youths in in the program, rather than on probation, resulted in direct savings of approximately $5,000 per youth. Over the course of this community–university partnership, this has saved the local community over $20 million.

        Similarly, a study on AMIkids Community-Based Day Treatment Services reported that it costs approximately $40,235 for every juvenile who commits an offense to complete a residential program (based on FY 2007–2008 dollars). In comparison, the day treatment services offered by AMIkids costs approximately $9,356 per youth who completes the program. Using these estimates, the state saves over $3 million for every 100 youths who complete the day treatment services provided by AMIkids versus residential programming.

      • Use the results of ROIs and cost-effectiveness evaluations to help make decisions on what programs to implement, sustain, and remove. All attempts should be made to implement cost-effective diversion programs, based upon the ongoing needs of youth and the potential cost savings for your community. However, it is important to also evaluate the ongoing needs of the community, capabilities of service providers in the community, and other practical considerations.

        Keep in mind, however, programs that have an expected impact on outcomes may not be cost effective while affordable programs may have little or no effect on outcomes in your community. For example, a cost-effectiveness analysis of Juvenile Drug Courts with Contingency Management and Multisystemic Therapy, compared with traditional family court in Charleston County, South Carolina, was conducted to see what treatment options could best improve outcomes and cost less. Overall, the analysis found that the juvenile drug court programs were significantly better at improving targeted outcomes such as substance use and delinquent behavior. However, the traditional family court option cost significantly less than the juvenile drug court programs, even though outcomes for youths did not improve as well. What this example shows is that programs showing the most effectiveness at improving targeted outcomes may be more expensive than other options, whereas the most cost-effective/less expensive programs may be less effective at improving targeted outcomes, compared with other options. These are scenarios that may come up while selecting programs to implement and may require deciding what to prioritize: cost savings or improvements in outcomes. Choosing a problem that is more expensive, but yields better outcomes, may result in push back from policymakers. However, in this situation, it is important to discuss the benefits of the program to policymakers, highlighting that in some scenarios effectiveness trumps cost-savings.

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