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COSSUP First Responder Deflection Mentoring Initiative

The COSSUP First Responder Deflection Mentoring Initiative will provide communities interested in starting or enhancing a deflection program with the opportunity to learn from established or innovative programs that have shown success in supporting individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) in their communities. The mentor sites will serve as models for individuals and teams interested in starting a program or for established programs interested in learning innovative practices.

Communities can submit an online application to visit a mentor program. Mentorship will be provided in a hybrid capacity, with virtual and in-person engagement with mentees. After an initial introductory call, mentors will host the mentee community for a dynamic and engaging 2-day visit. During that time, mentors provide opportunities for peer-to-peer exchanges among mentees, mentor program personnel, and their community partners (e.g., treatment providers and peer recovery organizations). Importantly, mentors will include mentees in deflection outreach efforts. The Bureau of Justice Assistance will support the travel of up to three individuals from each approved community to participate in an onsite visit to one of the mentor sites.

To apply to be a mentor, submit all application components via the online application here:

If needed, a Word copy of the application questions can be accessed at

What Is First Responder Deflection?

First responders (law enforcement, fire services, or emergency medical services [EMS]) frequently respond to calls for service involving individuals with or affected by substance use, mental health, and co-occurring disorders. In response, a variety of initiatives, collectively called deflection, have emerged across the country. Implemented in partnership with first responders, multidisciplinary deflection initiatives serve as an early, upstream warm handoff from first responders to community-based treatment, housing, services, and recovery.

There are six frameworks or pathways of deflection, each of which addresses specific public health and public safety challenges faced by communities. As a deflection design is unique to each community, the range of variations on which pathways a community is using varies.


An individual voluntarily initiates contact with a first responder (law enforcement, fire services, or EMS) for a referral to treatment and services. If the contact is initiated with a law enforcement agency, the individual makes contact without fear of arrest.


A first responder intentionally identifies or seeks out individuals with SUDs to refer the individuals to or engage them in treatment; outreach is often conducted by a team consisting of a clinician and/or a peer with lived experience.


A first responder and a program partner (often a clinician or a peer with lived experience) conduct outreach specifically to individuals who have recently experienced an overdose to engage them in and provide linkages to treatment.


As a preventative measure, during routine activities such as patrol or response to a service call, a first responder engages individuals and provides a referral to treatment or to a case manager.


(Only applicable to law enforcement) During routine activities such as patrol or response to a service call during which charges otherwise would be filed, law enforcement officers provide a referral to treatment or to a case manager or issue a noncriminal citation to report to a program. Often, charges are held in abeyance until treatment and/or a social service plan is successfully completed.


A team comprising community-based behavioral health professionals (e.g., crisis workers, clinicians, peer specialists) and/or other credible messengers—individuals with lived experience—sometimes in partnership with medical professionals engages individuals to help de-escalate crises, mediates low-level conflicts, or addresses quality-of-life issues by providing a referral to treatment, services, or a case manager.

Pick Your Pathway Pathway