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Expansion of diversion program offers resources for youth

40% of all of the 18th District's juvenile cases end up in a diversion program, an alternative rehabilitation route to prevent young people from re-offending.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A new office for diversion services is to open up in Aurora, helping young people keep from becoming re-offenders. If they complete the program, it also allows them to rid their record of any criminal charges. 

District Attorney John Kellner said he has prioritized diversion services, mainly used in juvenile cases. Right now, 40% of all juvenile cases are 'diverted' rather than going through the traditional court system track, resulting in plea deals or jail sentences. 

The expansion means the D.A.'s office will have an additional office in Aurora, an area that represents the large majority of their caseload. Other services are available at offices in Centennial, Castle Rock and Littleton. 

The services include counselors and victim advocates that tailor a program specific to the individual and their rehabilitation journey. 

Participants need to apply to the program to be considered and meet the criteria to be accepted. The diversion program is for low-level offenders 

"We want to see kids successfully complete this program. We do not want to see them come across our desk as an adult with a felony case or anything that could really damage their life," said District Attorney John Kellner. "We are giving kids the tools and the understanding along with their parents to help keep them out of trouble and out of the system entirely." 

The new building was designed with access in mind so participants and their families could access the services by bus or light rail. 

"To have those resources, that's one thing but to make sure they are accessible to people we want to serve, that is a totally different thing," said Kellner. 

Right now, less than 7% of those who complete the program go on to re-offend. They hope the percentage can only decrease further with the help of additional resources easily accessible. 

D.A. Kellner has also piloted the Recovery Diversion Program, mainly for adults struggling with addiction. 

The program was launched during the summer. Kellner says the timing was critical as drug overdose deaths increased in 2020 by 37% in Colorado, totaling 1,512 deaths. 

The recovery program specifically targets adults with little to no criminal history who have been charged with a crime related to their addiction. Kellner says he saw firsthand an increase in addiction-related crimes such as theft to feed their addiction issue. 

The District Attorney's office is working with AllHealth Network to provide three to six appointments for recommended treatment. Those who complete these steps can have their charges dismissed. 

The grand opening for the Aurora office will be on Oct. 25th. 

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