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Community Mental Health - Millage News

Posted on: December 9, 2019

Washtenaw and Detroit to participate in national LEAD training institute

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Washtenaw County and Detroit are the first Michigan jurisdictions to be chosen to participate in the national Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) training institute in Seattle, WA.

Five Washtenaw County diversion leaders--from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, Community Mental Health agency, and Public Defender’s Office--will attend the training from January 28-30 to learn how to implement the evidence-based model.

Just what is LEAD? A way for communities to respond to low-level offenses that stem from unaddressed public health and human service needs--addiction, untreated mental illness, homelessness, and extreme poverty--through a public health framework, reducing reliance on the formal criminal justice system. 

LEAD emerged in Seattle in 2011 after collaborations between a broad range of Seattle-area stakeholders--police, prosecutors, civil rights advocates, public defenders, political leaders, mental health and drug treatment providers, housing and service providers, and business and neighborhood leaders--to find new ways to solve problems for individuals who frequently cycled in and out of the criminal justice system.
LEAD goals are to:

  • Reorient government’s response to safety, disorder, and health-related problems,
  • Improve public safety and public health through research-based, health-oriented, and harm reduction interventions,
  • Reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system for low-level offenses related to drug use, mental health, sex work, and extreme poverty,
  • Undo racial disparities at the front-end of the criminal justice system,
  • Sustain funding for alternative interventions by capturing and reinvesting criminal justice savings, and
  • Strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

While LEAD programs across the county differ in design--the model has been launched in more than three-dozen jurisdictions to date--the model gives police officers an opportunity to divert low-level offenders to community-based, harm-reduction interventions for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs. Through trauma-informed intensive case-management, participants access a wide range of support services such as counseling, peer support, drug treatment, and housing.

 After several years of operation, an independent, non-randomized controlled outcome study found that Seattle’s LEAD participants were 58 percent less likely to be arrested after enrollment in the program, compared to a control group that went through “system as usual” criminal justice processing. Preliminary program data collected by case managers also indicated that LEAD improves the health and well-being of people struggling at the intersection of poverty and drug and mental health problems. 

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