Howard County marked the one-year anniversary of their Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, highlighting its success rate and improvement of the public safety system.
With a 91 percent success rate, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program offers individuals who participate in low-level crime, related to mental health and substance use challenges, the opportunity to be diverted to human services instead of entering the criminal justice system after an encounter with a law enforcement official. In partnership with the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services and the Maryland Department of Health, Maryland now has nine, fully operational LEAD sites, including Howard County.
In some misdemeanor cases that meet appropriate criteria, Howard County Police can now divert an individual to comprehensive case management services and peer recovery support in lieu of the criminal justice system cycle. LEAD is currently implemented by Community Outreach Division and Neighborhood Community Resource Officers within HCPD. These officers are uniquely qualified to operate with a high-level of discretionary authority due to their extensive training and existing relationships within the communities they serve.
LEAD is an evidence-based systems approach that began in Seattle, WA in 2011. There are now 52 LEAD initiatives across the country with over 17 additional programs launching nationwide. Per the LEAD National Bureau, the program has reduced recidivism of its participants by 58% and has an average cost savings of around $3,000 dollars for each participant in LEAD vs. the “system as usual” approach.
“The LEAD Program has proven to be successful due to its less punitive, more effective, public-health-based approach. It remains our responsibility to, as a community, constantly evaluate and improve our public safety systems and ensure that we are providing the best possible outcomes for residents within our community. With this program, we are changing the way criminal behavior related to problematic substance use, mental illness, chronic homelessness, poverty, and other health and wellness issues are handled.” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (press release).