Creating Diversion Pathways to Strengthen Behavioral Health Support in Rural Jurisdictions:
Lessons from Gregg County, Texas
Relative to urban jurisdictions, rural communities experience higher rates of substance abuse, poorer physical and mental health outcomes, and increased rates of incarceration. Oftentimes, rural residents seek primary and stabilizing mental and behavioral healthcare from emergency responders, resulting in strained emergency medical services, hospital emergency room departments, and local jails.
To address these challenges, rural jurisdictions have been piloting diversion programs, which identify individuals in need of mental or behavioral health support and divert them from jail or hospital emergency rooms to an appropriate healthcare center. However, in setting up diversion pathways, rural communities face a unique set of challenges: fewer mental and behavioral health providers, fewer funding resources, and a target population with poorer health outcomes spread out over a wider geographical area.
Informed by the GPL’s work with Gregg County, a rural jurisdiction in East Texas, this policy brief outlines three key insights that can help resource-constrained jurisdictions repurpose existing resources and leverage trusted relationships across emergency services to develop diversion pathways that better serve their residents.