The Lantern Project


The Lantern Project is a Deflection, Diversion, and Reentry program that works to support people with histories of substance use who are justice involved by connecting them to therapeutic supports as soon as possible.  The Lantern Project team, which consists of a reentry recovery navigator, a clinician, a peer support specialist, and a diversion coordinator, will continue to provide support and referral assistance to each individual throughout the course of their journey. The Lantern Project has two paths – the diversion path works with people who have been arrested or are about to be arrested, while the re-entry path works with people who are currently incarcerated and working towards reentry as well as with those who have been recently released.

The Lantern Project is a partnership between the Orange County Criminal Justice Resource Department and Freedom House Recovery Center, with grant funding from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse. 


The mission of the Lantern Project is to support individuals who are justice involved or at risk of justice involvement with person-centered and evidence-based services to reduce risk of overdose, COVID-19 infection, and recidivism.

Program Purpose & Information

The Lantern Project provides behavioral health services, up-to-date education and information about COVID-19, and education about harm reduction measures taking place throughout Orange County.

The goal of the Lantern Project is to provide increased access to care and support to people with a history of substance use who are involved in the criminal legal system in Orange County through diversion coordination and reentry navigation. Harm Reduction practices, reentry support, and deflection/diversion improve community relations with law enforcement, reduce racial disparities in the criminal legal system, and improve public health outcomes.

Reentry Navigation Project

The Reentry Recovery Navigator receives referrals from Detention Center personnel, the Local Reentry Council, the Pretrial Director, and the Clinical Coordinator to conduct intake assessments for individuals who are currently detained at the Orange County Detention Center or who have been released from prison within the last month. The Reentry Recovery Navigator will work with each individual to refer them to peer supports and other services while they are detained and will create a transition plan to ensure they are connected to support and services immediately upon their release. The Reentry Recovery Navigator will work in conjunction with Freedom House staff to assist with behavioral health treatment referrals that will best benefit the individual for a successful and seamless transition back into the community. 

Diversion Coordination Project

The Lantern Project Recovery Diversion Coordinator will receive referrals from local law enforcement officials, district attorneys, and court personnel for people who have a history of substance use and who are at risk of getting arrested or have an open criminal court matter. The Recovery Diversion Coordinator will meet with the individual and assess their specific needs and create an individualized Diversion Service Plan. Upon completion of the Diversion Plan, the matter or criminal court case has the possibility of being closed out and/or dismissed and the Diversion Coordinator will complete additional referrals for driver license restoration, expungement, or other services that may be needed. The Diversion Coordinator will work with the individual throughout their service plan and provide ongoing case management to the individual. The Diversion Plan will vary depending on duration of time but typically will not extend past 90 days. 

Diversion and Reentry Eligibility Criteria

  • Individual is at least 18 years old
  • Individual has a history of substance use
  • Individual may be at high risk for COVID-19 exposure
  • Individual may have an open or pending court case (felony or misdemeanor)
  • Individual can have a criminal background
  • Individual is currently detained or has been released from prison within the past month (Reentry)
  • Referrals can be pre-charge or post-charge (Diversion)
  • Diversion Charge restrictions 
    • No domestic violence charges, unless approved by district Attorney Office
    • No Chapter 20 traffic charges
    • No charge that involves the use of a weapon

Make a referral to the Lantern Project

To make a referral please complete the appropriate online referral form:

You may also submit a completed PDF referral form (listed on the Lantern Project Related Documents on the right) to the Diversion Coordinator -- Megan Pickard.

  1. Allison Zirkel, LCSW, LCAS

    Clinical Coordinator
    Phone: 919-245-2304; Cell: 919-748-2196

  2. Megan Pickard, CPSS

    Recovery Diversion Coordinator

  3. Jennifer Cole, MS, CADC, CPSS

    Reentry Recovery Navigator

Lantern Project Related Documents

How to Recognize an Overdose