Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program
The opioid crisis in Maryland has touched not only people but a variety of industries and institutions, and it has led to many unconventional partnerships. One innovative approach to the issue is the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, which is currently being piloted in Baltimore.
Built on relationships between the state’s attorney, the police department, public health, and social services, LEAD provides pathways for would-be “low level” drug and prostitution arrestees to avoid entering into the criminal justice system. LEAD started with programs in Santa Fe and Seattle, and is currently being developed and implemented in cities across the country.
Often referred to as a “pre-booking” program, LEAD gives clients an option to engage with social services before they are formally charged with an offense, which differentiates it from the more conventional “drug courts”. Engaging with clients at the point of arrest creates what Adrienne Breidenstine from Behavioral Health System Baltimore calls “non-traditional access points” to care, helping people to get in touch with the resources they need.
In the wake of the opioid crisis, LEAD encourages police to engage with high-risk populations through a harm reduction framework. This may be especially helpful in a city like Baltimore, where the relationship between the police and the community has often been referred to as strained. LEAD efforts have been shown to decrease recidivism for drug offenses and increase referrals to healthcare. BHSB hopes to expand the program in Baltimore after the pilot year is completed in 2018.