Madison Area Addiction Recovery Initiative (MAARI)

A Madison, Wisconsin diversion program offers substance use disorder treatment for those committing non-violent addiction-related offenses

Diversion programs offer justice-involved individuals a chance to avoid prosecution for charges if they complete a court-ordered course of treatment or community service. In 2017, following a surge of opioid overdoses and deaths, the Madison, Wisconsin police department initiated the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI) which was later expanded through a three-year federal grant to the Madison Area Addiction Recovery Initiative (MAARI). It targets individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) who have committed non-violent offenses related to addiction such as possession of controlled substances, theft, or prostitution. MAARI involves an initial assessment by a counselor and recovery coach to determine eligibility for the program, then referral to a six month course of addiction treatment. If the applicant completes treatment and commits no further offenses, the original charges are dropped, thus avoiding a criminal record of the offense and easing the burden on overloaded courts and detention facilities. MAARI has recently expanded to include community outreach, naloxone distribution, and rapid response teams.

In offering a public health response to addiction-related crime, MAARI involves close collaboration between treatment providers, first responders, the district attorney's office, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Evaluations of the program here, herehere, and here suggest it has been effective in channeling those with SUD into treatment who would otherwise have faced criminal prosecution. A presentation with data on utilization and outcomes is available here. Contact information for MAARI is available at the program website.

By offering addiction treatment in lieu of arrest and prosecution of criminal charges, this pre-arrest diversion program has the potential to disrupt the cycle of crime, reduce the likelihood of future offenses, and promote public health and safety.

Continuum of Care
Harm Reduction
Type of Evidence
Response Approach
Peer-reviewed Article

Evidence of Program Effectiveness

"Of 263 participants, 160 initiated program engagement, with 100 successfully completing MARI. Interim evaluations and community partner feedback informed program protocol adjustments to increase participant enrollment, retention and diversity, streamline the referral processes, and transition to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic." Zhang, A. et al., 2023.

"Diverting adults who committed a non-violent, drug use-related crime from criminal prosecution to addiction treatment may reduce 6-month recidivism."  White, V. et al., 2021.