Community

A diversion program that began as a pilot project aimed at helping people with mental health and substance abuse issues is now open to the public.

The program is called the Living Room, and it aims to divert people in crisis from jail, the emergency room, or inpatient hospitalization and connect them to community resources. The Living Room is a program from Centerstone, a nonprofit health organization with clinics and centers in Louisville.

The program started in a pilot-phase, restricting it to people with referrals from police, hospitals or other sources. But now, in addition to being available in all Metro Police divisions, the Living Room is open to the public.

Centerstone’s Kimberly Brothers said the Living Room is different from other diversion programs.

“Persons with lived experience in recovery for addictions and mental health, and family experience with recovery are the people who do the work. That’s what really distinguishes this program,” Brothers said. “As we know today, we’re the only one in the country that is doing this model exactly as we are.”

Brothers said Louisville’s overcrowded detention center and busy emergency rooms pressed Centerstone to create the program. The city announced it would fund a pilot of the program in August 2017, giving officers in two LMPD districts discretion to take people they encountered to the Living Room instead of jail. Since then, Brothers said the program has served more than 1,100 guests and diverted 95 percent of people in crisis from incarceration or emergency room care.

LMPD spokesperson Jessie Halladay said since the program started last year, more people encountered by police ask to go to the diversion program. She said it gives officers more options for helping people.

“Maybe you just need a place to warm up, start thinking clearly, get some help just thinking. Whatever their issue is, the Living Room is available,” Halladay said. “That’s a benefit to our entire community.”

The Living Room is located at Centerstone at 708 Magazine Street and is open to the public 24 hours a day. More information about the program can be found here.  

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.