EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Months of hearings and years of planning have come down to one more week of waiting for a proposed crisis diversion center in Evansville. Supporters gave one final pitch to Vanderburgh County Council members ahead of a vote on the proposal December 7.

“Where does a policeman have the option of taking someone that’s having some type of problem today,” asks Michael Scavuzzo. “Well, they can take them to the emergency room if there’s room there. Or they can take them to jail.”

Scavuzzo has been a proponent for the center for more than 7 years. He, along with the group “Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment, or CAJE, have been urging Vanderburgh County Council members to use $500,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to open the center, to be housed at United Caring Services.

“I want to get it implemented,” says Scavuzzo, “I want to see it work, and I want it to work for our community.”

With the City of Evansville already funding $300,000 to United Caring Services, executive director Jason Emmerson says additional funding will allow for more diversion care for residents facing mental health or addiction issues.

“What your money will allow is three, four, maybe more, days a week, potentially,” says Emmerson. “They’re dealing with these things that could be diverted and avoided. And maybe we separate 10% of them, we get them treatment.”

Emmerson and Scavuzzo believe a diversion program would alleviate jail overcrowding while also cutting tax payer costs of incarceration. Emmerson says a diversion center will create treatment options for longstanding issues highlighted by the Covid pandemic.

“You have the opportunity to, in a way, erase those years,” explains Emmerson, “where now the past two years have even made these needs even more important.”

Council will vote on the proposed funding in their next meeting on December 7. If approved, the diversion center could be operational by the end of 2023.