- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

MERRIFIELD, Va. (AP) - Fairfax County officials have launched a program to steer people with mental health problems away from jail.

The Washington Post (https://wapo.st/1SKDOHy ) reports officials held a news conference Thursday at the Merrifield Crisis Response Center to formally unveil how the Diversion First program works.

Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid says the program will provide people with mental illness the help they need to prevent them from going to jail. The program will place nonviolent offenders in a facility where they can receive counseling and a place to sleep.

Kincaid says the program was partly inspired by the 2015 death of Natasha McKenna, a woman with a history of mental illness who was restrained and struck with a stun gun at the Fairfax County jail.

Officials have handled 265 cases since the program started at the beginning of the year.

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Information from: The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com

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