Atlanta picks Grady Health System to operate Atlanta Diversion Center

Atlanta City Council approved legislation Monday to authorize Mayor Andre Dickens to contract with Grady Health System as the lead operator of the Center for Diversion and Services that is set to open this year.

Atlanta and Fulton County are investing millions of dollars into a new round-the-clock diversion center at the city’s detention facility. Officials say the center will provide a variety of pre-arrest diversion services for those experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges, substance use and poverty.

The center will also serve as an alternative to arrests for minor and non-violent offenses.

According to city officials, multiple providers will offer behavioral health screening and needs assessments, non-emergency medical care, sobering rooms, referrals and transportation to off-site treatment and service organizations, case management and basic legal navigation, warrant resolution, food, laundry and showers.

The initial one-year agreement with Grady will take effect this month and is extendable for up to four additional years. The agreement also gives Grady an opportunity to provide health screening and assessment services in its second year of operating the center.

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The approval of the operator contract was lauded in statements by Dickens, Fulton Chairman Robb Pitts, and Grady President and CEO John Haupert.

Dickens called Grady a trusted partner due to its community roots, and its shared commitment to prioritizing treatment and prevention. Pitts called Grady a natural partner to operate the center because Grady spent decades building trust with the community.

“At Grady, we are committed to expanding healthcare access for the people of Atlanta, and we’re thankful to be partnering with Mayor Dickens, the Atlanta City Council, and Chairman Pitts and Fulton County to address the growing challenges impacting our community,” Hauper’s statement said. “The Diversion Center will allow us to provide these individuals with the quality care and resources necessary to improve their overall well-being.”

The approval of the operator contract comes weeks after Dickens signed an agreement to lease 700 of the city’s empty beds at the detention center to Fulton. Dickens’ office brokered that agreement in an effort to address overcrowding at the county’s jail.

The lease, which faced intense pushback from activists, will last for four years, with no options for renewal.

Credit: Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy