Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a community-based diversion approach with the goals of improving public safety and reducing unnecessary justice system involvement of program participants. LEAD seeks to improve lives, reduce criminal behavior, and create safer communities using harm reduction, Wraparound, and Restorative Justice Principles.
LEAD can help communities respond to issues stemming from unaddressed public health and human services needs — addiction, untreated mental illness, homelessness, and extreme poverty — through a public health framework that reduces reliance on the formal criminal justice system.
The San Luis Valley LEAD program identifies low-level offenders and redirects them to trauma-informed intensive case management supports and services. The program aims to decrease the impact of substance abuse in the community and individuals by improving public safety and preventing overdose.
LEAD costs less and is more successful at reducing future criminal behavior than processing low-level drug offenders through the criminal justice system. The program is voluntary and does not require abstinence from drug or alcohol use as a condition of continued participation.
Participants can enter the LEAD program through a diversion referral or a social referral.
Upon arrest, law enforcement determines if they intend to divert an individual or if they plan to arrest, book, and route the report to the criminal justice system. If the decision is made to divert an individual into LEAD, law enforcement determines if the individual is eligible for participation.
Social contact referrals provide law enforcement an avenue to place individuals who may have not committed a crime an opportunity to engage in LEAD. If the decision is made to divert an individual into LEAD, law enforcement determines if the individual is eligible for participation.
LEAD is a national program with community chapters throughout the country.
LEAD® is a registered trademark held by the Public Defender Association (Seattle) for the Seattle/King County Policy Coordinating Group. Please refer to the LEAD National Support Bureau for more information.
How LEAD Works in the San Luis Valley
In a LEAD® program, police officers exercise discretionary authority based on a diversion protocol developed by the LEAD Policy Group to divert individuals to a community-based, harm-reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs. In lieu of the normal criminal justice system cycle — booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration — individuals are instead referred into a trauma-informed intensive case management program where the individual receives a wide range of support services utilizing a Wraparound model.
Core Principles - LEAD Bureau
Intensive Case Management
Intensive case management is a core principle of the LEAD program. Intensive case management provides increased support and assistance in all aspects of the LEAD participant’s life. Participants engaged in problematic drug use require a more holistic approach to case management. Case managers will meet the participant without judgement and support the participant to identify their needs and next steps. They most often have multiple needs including access to medication assisted treatment and other drug treatment options, access to food, housing, legal advocacy, job training, etc. Overall, they need increased support in accessing these services. A case manager meets the LEAD participant where they are at in their wants and needs for assistance. LEAD Core Principles for Case Management.
Coordination & Collaboration
Prosecutors and police officers work closely with case managers to ensure that all contacts with LEAD® participants going forward, including new criminal prosecutions for other offenses, are coordinated with the participant’s service plan to maximize the opportunity to achieve behavioral change. Collaboration among these groups to address issues as they arise facilitates stronger relationships between these systems and creates a solid foundation for positive outcomes for clients and stakeholders alike. City, county and community programs including behavioral health and health care providers work together to continue to improve services and systems and lessen gaps in resources.
These partnerships are reflected in a formalized MOU.
LEAD Participants Are
“Thank you for giving me my son back!”
— LEAD Parent
“I can’t believe you guys were there for us and we did not feel judged…”
— LEAD Participant
“LEAD has helped me to be successful through the process of addiction and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my case manager. You have never judged me and been there during the hardest and darkest parts of my addiction.”
— LEAD Participant
“Words cannot describe how grateful I am for this program. I had a three hundred dollar a day addiction to heroin. I have been clean since, December 20th, 2018. That’s four hundred, seventy-seven days clean… The intervention, compassion, & assistance provided by the LEAD Program saved my life! Their is no doubt in my mind that I would either be in prison or six feet deep, if it wasn’t for the LEAD Program.”
— LEAD Participant
“As a San Luis Valley native, I have been to thirty-six funerals over the past 14 years due to opiates. I know in my heart of hearts that many of them might still be alive today if they could have been offered the assistance and care the LEAD Program provides… Thank you, for bringing such an innovative approach to how the ‘war on drugs’ is being handled in the San Luis Valley. Thank you so much to everyone involved with the LEAD Program… I am a living example of what care, compassion, and understanding can do for your fellow man.”
— LEAD Participant
Our Program Funders
State & Regional Partners
San Luis Valley LEAD Policy Group
Resources for Restorative Community Programs
LEAD® National Support Bureau
The LEAD® National Support Bureau is a project of the Public Defender Association (PDA). PDA acknowledges our partnership with the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice in the launch of the Bureau in 2016. The Bureau also draws on the expertise of prosecutors, police, case managers, and community public safety leaders who are now using LEAD on the ground, and are willing to share lessons learned with their peers around the country.
FAQs for Restorative Community Programs
LEAD® is a public safety program. It allows law enforcement to redirect persons suspected of involvement in non-violent low level crimes associated with problematic drug use, such as shoplifting or possession of paraphernalia, to community-based services instead of jail and prosecution. LEAD is NOT a confidential informant program for law enforcement. Law enforcement officers are prohibited from asking LEAD clients for confidential or source information.
There are no pre-established or firm guidelines for what constitutes program completion. The goal is to maintain participants in services until they are capable of being prepared to transition out.
The primary purpose of LEAD is to reduce crime and change lives. LEAD provides a way for law enforcement to help communities respond to public order issues using a public health approach. The program reduces reliance on the criminal justice system to address human service needs, such as addiction, untreated mental illness, or homelessness.