It’s somewhat ironic that, right before the coronavirus hit local governments across the state in early 2020, cities and counties in North Carolina were trying to figure out how they were going to get by with greatly reduced revenue streams.

However, it turns out that, after the first few months of the pandemic, those same local governments were rolling in money, largely due to federal grants passed down through the states.

The grants have been made available for virtually every purpose under the sun. In the current case, the new grants will pursue the noble effort of trying to keep those with mental health issues out of jails and prisons in the state.

On Wednesday, June 8, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced two new funding opportunities meant to address behavioral health in the criminal justice system across the state.

NCDHHS has now announced two funding opportunities that total giving $6 million to community-based mental health providers addressing the problem.

These programs are meant to “help individuals with serious mental illness involved with the criminal justice system, and they reflect the department’s vision to advance innovative solutions that foster independence, improve health and promote well-being for all North Carolinians.”

The grants will be funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act funding and CARES Act funding as Mental Health Block Grants.

Deepa Avula, NCDHHS director for the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Use Services, said NCDHHS and the state are taking a new approach to the very old problem.

“These new programs represent a comprehensive approach to addressing the intersection of behavioral health and the justice system,” Avula stated in a press release this week. “Sadly, too many people with serious mental illness end up in our jail system rather than our health care system. These new investments will save money and, more importantly, lives.”

It’s not known yet whether any of the money will be awarded to Guilford County efforts.

Here are two ways the money will be put to use:

  • Police and Mental Health Collaborations for Diversion Programs: There will be $1.2 million each for up to four sites ($4.8 million total) in order to “create or expand community-based early diversion programs for individuals with serious mental illness who have had an initial contact with the criminal justice system to help them stay out of the criminal justice system.”
  • Jail-Based Treatment for Serious Mental Illness: There will be $500,000 for up to four sites ($2 million total) to address the “gap in care and treatment for individuals with serious mental illness currently housed in North Carolina jails.”

Details on the applications and performance timelines, eligibility criteria for applying and allowable uses of program funds can be found at