Denver police help drug offenders and prostitutes with new life over returning to jail
DENVER — Community members living with mental health and substance use issues can now turn to law enforcement for guidance and support while saving taxpayers money.
City officials have announced Denver’s new pilot program, LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) on Tuesday. LEAD offers immediate support services to its program participants.
Participants will receive trauma-informed and harm reduction-based services over the threat of continued incarceration.
“LEAD gives Denver Police officers an innovative and effective way to address the untreated behavioral health needs of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Kevin Kelly, LEAD Program Administrator with Denver’s Office of Behavioral Health Strategies.
The opportunity for members of law enforcement to focus on other issues and redirect people away from the criminal justice system is among the main goals of LEAD.
“With this program, we can prevent people from getting caught in the endless cycle of incarceration, saving taxpayer money. And we can empower people to live better who are typically facing extraordinary barriers to accessing the services they need,” Kelly said.
A $560,707 grant from the Department of Human Services’ Office of Human Services, LEAD participants will begin receiving immediate housing support, job training from Addiction Research and Treatment Services, ARTS, of Colorado School of Medicine or The Empowerment Program.
According to city officials, Denver can request more funding once the program has been independently evaluated. Factors will include the outcome of more money will be based on cost-effectiveness if the program has caused reductions in drug use and offenders reoffending.
“By implementing the LEAD program, we’re giving people a first chance before a second chance is needed,” said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. “Nationally, LEAD has shown it can improve public safety and public order while reducing the criminal behavior and incarceration of those who participate.
The union of law enforcement agencies, public officials, and community organizations of LEAD is not new to Denver. LEAD, an enrollment diversion program is located in Seattle and the organization boasts the ability “to work together in implementing a new approach to addressing drug and prostitution activity.”
“LEAD is an opportunity to help break the cycle of incarceration for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues,” said Denver City Attorney Kristin M. Bronson.
The program, implemented by the Denver’s Office of Behavioral Strategies includes the DPD Districts 1,2 and 6. The assistant city attorneys office is the liaison for the Empowerment Program, ARTS, DPT and the Denver DA’s office.