Baltimore City Police Launch Treatment Diversion Program

The Baltimore City Police Department is launching a three year pilot program to divert low level drug and prostitution offenders to treatment instead of jail.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, is based on a treatment and support services model in Seattle and a handful of other cities across the country. It opens in Baltimore after more than a year of planning here.

It is consistent with commitments by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis to find ways to avoid “unnecessary incarceration” of addicts and the mentally ill, as well as with directives in Baltimore’s proposed police reform agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“All too often in our city and our country we handcuff, charge and incarcerate people who are addicted to drugs,” Davis said during a news conference Monday launching the program. “They’re suffering from substance abuse, and incarceration does little if anything to cure them of that addiction. So there has to be a different way.”

Under the program, police officers who detain individuals suspected of prostitution or misdemeanor drug possession will be able to call case managers with Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. instead of booking the suspects on criminal charges. The pilot approach will apply to arrests in the western half of downtown. More than 120 officers have received training for the program, Davis said.

The case managers, under oversight by Behavioral Health System Baltimore, will provide services including drug treatment, mental health services and housing aid, officials said.

Read The Baltimore Sun for more information.