About Arrest and Jail Alternatives
The Arrest and Jail Alternatives (AJA) program utilizes peer case managers and mental health professionals to assist Olympia community members who are deeply marginalized based on multiple intersecting identities including homelessness, addiction, disability, and criminal justice involvement. Certified Peer Counselor staff draw upon their shared life experience in order to offer empowering, non-judgmental support to individuals who have been traditionally let down by systems of care. AJA utilizes a trauma-responsive and client-directed model based on principles of harm reduction, and seeks to improve access to services such as housing and non-emergency treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. The program’s goals include reducing recidivism, financial strain on the criminal justice system, and inappropriate utilization of emergency services.
AJA works closely with other CCS programs such as Drexel House and the Quince Street Village, as well as external partners in housing, behavioral health, crisis response, primary and emergency medical care, public defense, and other supportive services. The program is one of several across the state in the expanding field of diversion from the criminal justice system, and an important feature of the work is the close relationship established with local law enforcement and corrections agencies who are also committed to finding innovative solutions. As our community seeks responsive, holistic alternatives to the “business as usual” model of criminalizing human behavior, many voices are needed at the table. Employing—and empowering—individuals with lived experience of addiction, mental health, homelessness, and incarceration is a significant part of the AJA service model, and allows CCS staff to make genuine connections with community members who may otherwise be difficult to reach.
- Intensive case management – AJA serves as a vital connective tissue to housing, substance use treatment, mental health care, primary/urgent/specialist medical appointments, legal assistance, benefits programs, and other important services
- Peer navigation – utilizing the power of their own lived experience, staff build meaningful relationships with their clients
- Crisis management – AJA strives to be responsive and adaptive to emerging situations in the community involving our clients. Staff are often called in by law enforcement or community partners to de-escalate behavioral health crises, as they have both the skills and the relationships to do so successfully
- Life skills training – often a significant step on the path towards independence is learning basic skills around money management, healthy communication, and personal care
- Supplies – camping gear, clothing, and nonperishable food can make a life or death difference for many individuals in our community. AJA accepts clean, unexpired donations of these vital items!
- Social support – often the greatest thing that a service provider can do is just be available to individuals having a hard time, and helping walk with them out of it. AJA’s unofficial motto is “meet people where they are at, but don’t leave them there”
- Transportation – thanks to a partnership with Intercity Transit, staff are able to help clients reach vital appointments or just meet basic needs
- Street outreach – the program limits the number of available slots for enrolled clients in order to focus on long-term, intensive care, but staff also spend time working on an outreach basis to support individuals experiencing homelessness in downtown Olympia with supplies and limited case management