Understanding the Impact of Diversion Programs: Attorney General Weiser Visits

By Jami Hayes


As the Executive Director of YouthZone, I recently had the honor of hosting Colorado’s Attorney General, Phil Weiser, during a visit he made to our Glenwood Springs location. Throughout the visit it became apparent that Weiser was deeply committed to supporting diversion programs like YouthZone at all levels.

Weiser reflected during his visit, “The work [at YouthZone] is make or break. A lot of young people… [are] living with a lot of trauma. They’re struggling in the midst of potentially very dangerous behaviors, drug use, [and] getting involved in criminal justice system. What YouthZone does is give people coping skills, engage people in restorative practices, and act in what you might think of as a trauma informed way,… [They are] helping people live their best lives… One of the core challenges that we as a society face, its youth mental health, and as I look across our whole state YouthZone is a model for what it means to help young people.” Weiser was especially impressed with the strength of our evidence-based approach, which uses pre and post assessments to measure success and course-correct when necessary. He recognizes the impact of Diversion Programs and the importance of providing effective resources and intervention for youth that are justice-involved or on a path towards justice involvement. We are grateful to have Weiser’s support and continued commitment to YouthZone and the importance of Diversion Programs.

During his visit this May, Weiser connected with influential local leaders that understand the day-in day-out needs of our community, such as YouthZone’s board chair, a local law enforcement officer, a family resources representative, and the Executive Director of Aspen Community Foundation. It was an inspirational moment to be a part of such a powerful group effort to take action and promote the realistic necessity of Diversion Programs. This level of partnership and collaboration is key to creating pathways of change in youth’s lives. The more people know one another the more they can refer to each other to resources that spur change in our communities.

YouthZone provides more than just a response to youth who are involved in the justice system, we also provide interventions for those at risk of becoming involved. Referrals come from teachers, parents, and Safety Resource Officers in the school who recognize the importance of pre-intervention. We are proud of the results our programs have yielded. YouthZone’s pre and post-surveys define what intervention plan looks like for each individual youth. Being able to experience a 98% rate of recidivism with the youth we are able to divert away from the system — as well as witnessing youth take ownership of their missteps and courageously change their path — is incredibly humbling and inspiring.

Click the image to listen to interview on KDNK’s website.

When Weiser visited us two years ago, he observed that there were 10 employees, now we have 16. He comments that this kind of growth is good news for our community, as a stronger connection with elements like YouthZone, local businesses, other nonprofit organizations, and the district attorney’s office creates a powerful collaborative network. This network helps ensure that young people are not punished – rather they are offered the opportunity to strive for a better path. His observation shows the level of smart culture that is exhibited in our community and serves as a model of what all communities should strive towards. Weiser’s continued commitment to our organization and the causes we stand for is a testament to how important these influential initiatives are in communities across Colorado.

This visit can be seen as an example of the significance of diversion programs, as Attorney General Weiser turns his attention towards organizations like YouthZone and their ability to keep youth out of the justice system. As organizations like YouthZone continue to emphasize the importance of early intervention with both pre and post assessments surveys they will likely continue to see success in changing the path of the youth they serve.

Weiser’s participation in our organization also served as a personal reminder of why we do the work we do. The work we do is hard and it is empowering to have a leader of his caliber reaffirm the work we do for our youth. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Attorney General Weiser and collaborating with community leaders and experts to foster positive change in the lives of youth and families.


YouthZone is a family-first nonprofit that supports parents and guardians, families, and adolescents. From Aspen to Parachute, we offer parent counseling and education services, family resources, and comprehensive assessment and advocacy to inspire healthy relationships between youth, families, and communities. To learn more about how YouthZone can help, please call us at 970-945-9300.

Jami Hayes, as the Executive Director at YouthZone, brings over 20 years of hands-on working experience with youth and families. Her various roles in schools as kindergarten, first grade, special education, instructional coach, and leader provide a unique perspective into the needs of communities. Through the lens of social justice and equity, she truly understands that health and wellness begin at the heart of our communities with our youth and families. Jami believes that positive community engagement is the driving force in behavior and mindset change. All youth are worthy and capable of growth which leads to positive generational change for families and communities.