Colorado DA Reaches High-Needs Youths with Innovative Prevention Program (2023)

Video Edition Updated

Office of the District Attorney, 21st Judicial District (Mesa County, CO)

Population: 150,000 | Number of Full-Time Prosecutors:27 | Contact Information

The Colorado 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the local school district and Colorado Mesa University, has developed a program aimed at helping kids in potentially difficult situations before it escalates to legal trouble. The Lighthouse Program intervenes early, providing resources to youths and their families in an effort to divert them from the court system and prepare them for future success.

The idea for the program came about as the courts in the area, which previously had a robust juvenile diversion program, were realizing that the system was becoming less effective due to the time needed to get juveniles through the court process.

Mesa County District Attorney Daniel Rubinstein began looking for solutions that could help youths before they found themselves in the court system. Truancy surfaced as a possible early indicator of future legal problems. In collaboration with the local school district, the district attorney’s office began treating school truancy, as well as suspensions and expulsions, through the lens of a diversion program with the goal of reaching kids early. As part of the program, assistance services are offered to both the youths and their families which may include tutoring, therapy, addiction services, etc.

Additionally, by involving Colorado Mesa University, college students are able to serve as peer mentors to the students in the Lighthouse Program while getting valuable internship and work experience. The program is also run from the Colorado Mesa University campus.

The program currently has five staff members including a screener, diversion coordinators, and support staff.