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Capitol Hill next likely target for drug diversion program that puts counseling before jail

Outside the Broadway QFC. (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

Heroin for sale outside the Broadway QFC (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

A Seattle-born drug diversion program being replicated across the country could soon be making its way to Capitol Hill. Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion was launched in 2011 and works by placing drug use suspects into counseling instead of jail.

On Thursday at 6:30 PM, the Capitol Hill Community Council will be hosting LEAD organizers at 12th Avenue Arts to talk about the program and the possibility of expanding it to Capitol Hill.

“Most of us who are operationally involved in LEAD think it makss sense for Capitol Hill to offer,” said Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association.

LEAD is currently available in downtown, Belltown, and in Skyway and is funded through a combination of public and private funding. The program is run through a partnership between City and County agencies and uses Evergreen Treatment Services for counseling.

Results from the program have been promising. LEAD participants were 87% less likely to be incarcerated after entry than those who didn’t participate, according to a 2-year study (PDF)of the program recently competed by the University of Washington. They also had 58% lower odds of a subsequent arrest after entry.

Participants were also far less of a burden on taxpayers than those that didn’t participate, resulting in an average of $2,100 in savings in the criminal justice system. On top of that, the Seattle Police Department has backed the program.

So far, around 350 people have participated in LEAD, which Daugaard said is still well short of the number it could serve. Short of having a recent violent offense conviction, most of those contacted by police for drug use or identified by the community as in need of help are eligible.

The program expanded from Belltown to downtown in 2014 and Daugaard said LEAD could come to Capitol Hill within a few months. While private funding for the program runs out this year, its likely that King County will pick up the tab. The program also uses Medicaid to pay for treatment.

Community partnerships with groups like neighborhood councils have been key in the program’s success, hence the CHCC meeting. Daugaard said the program is most suited for helping chronically homeless and addicted individuals who are well known to the community. In fact, most of the program’s referrals come from the community, non-police agencies, or from officers not actively on a call.

The incentives for participating are nuanced in these situations, but Daugaard said LEAD has built up enough of a good reputation on the street that most people participate if given the opportunity.

As a former public defender, Daugaard said one of the most surprising outcomes of the program is how motivated participants are to not let officers down who gave them a chance at diversion. Some officers have even started making LEAD referrals after booking people for other crimes that were clearly committed because of their addiction.

“That is genuine crime prevention,” Daugaard said. “(You’re) not preventing this crime, but going to prevent a future one.”

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13 thoughts on “Capitol Hill next likely target for drug diversion program that puts counseling before jail

  1. This appears to be a very promising approach towards preventing crime, but I would be interested in the details of the treatment offered. Do the participants have to stay clean&sober in order to continue to qualify for diversion? How long does the treatment last? Is there any data on longer-term outcomes? What percentage of participants eventually return to a life of addiction and crime?

    • I’ll refer you to google for details. The first four results are the KC pages, a ST article, and the WSJ. That info is out there and tbh I’m not sure that ‘returning to a life of crime’ is a scientifically measurable outcome.

      The pilot program had better than expected outcomes and had controls; in essence it was conducted with a decent level of scientific rigor.

      Often what people need is something to ‘break the cycle.’ This isn’t for hardened criminals, but for those in the throes of addiction. That disease is often a lifelong struggle and LEAD began in 2011. Even if it’s relatively short term, that is a few years of crime and thousands of taxpayer dollars saved. I don’t believe it’s going to have a wave of relapses in, say, five years BUT even if the program experienced that it’s still a success in the short-mid term.

    • see also: Change Of Habit: How Seattle Cops Fought An Addiction To Locking Up Drug Users

      In recent years, some states have saved money on prisons by investing more heavily in “drug courts” where judges can order defendants to enroll in treatment programs. Every state in the country has at least a few drug courts; Washington alone has dozens. In the simplest sense, these courts offer people an opportunity to avoid prison, provided they agree to stop using all illegal drugs and go into a treatment program ordered by a judge. Studies suggest that they can help addicted people break their habits. But people with the toughest addictions often drop out or fail to qualify in the first place, and even those who manage to get “clean” still have to live with the permanent stain of a criminal record.

      In Seattle’s West Precinct, where Bradford lives, the approach is different. People who get arrested for the sale and possession of crack, heroin and other illegal drugs are no longer automatically thrown in jail and prosecuted. Instead, officers with the Seattle Police Department now have the option of giving these offenders a choice: leave the precinct the old-fashioned way, in handcuffs, or meet with a counselor at a social-service agency and avoid the court system altogether.

      Those who choose the second path are no longer offenders, but “clients.” Depending on their needs, they may receive free apartments, clean clothes, college tuition, books for school or even yoga classes. Counselors lead them through a bureaucratic maze, helping them apply for jobs, food stamps, health insurance and other essentials. Private foundations shoulder most of the costs, though the city has begun to chip in, too. All the clients have to do to get into the program is agree to see a counselor at least twice in the first month of signing up. They don’t have to promise to stop using drugs. No one hands them a cup and points them to the bathroom.

      The underlying philosophy is known as “harm reduction.” Proponents believe in trying to rein in the secondary effects of drug addiction — social ills like poverty and homelessness and physical diseases like HIV — by supporting people who are either unwilling or unable to stop using drugs. The idea has always been controversial, particularly in the United States, with critics arguing that the best way to address addiction is to insist on total abstinence from drugs at every stage of the recovery process. Nevertheless, government-backed programs that practice the principles of harm reduction are spreading throughout the country and the world, in part because the unimpeded growth of the drug trade has made it increasingly difficult for governments to justify the traditional ways of dealing with addiction.

  2. The story is so incomplete in details. What does it mean in real time? When someone is caught dealing/doing drugs what happens? Is there a physical location they are taken instead of jail? Do they continue to go there for counseling, etc.? And if so, where would that be exactly.

    • REACH provides case managment and counseling. It is up to the office to not arrest the person and send them to lead. It’s a “pre-arrest” diversion. Unfortunately, many individuald ho would beneift from teh porgram aren’t being referred. Officers either still prefer to arrest individuals, or they don’t know that LEAD is an option.

      • Part of it is there has to be a determination that an individual would be a good candidate for the diversion program plus available resources within the program, so it isn’t just some officers preferring to arrest people rather than diverting them.

      • But the determination is made by the arresting officer. In many cases they do a poor job of determining. Or the arresting office isn’t familiar with lead and never considers making a referral.

  3. You can read about the details of the LEAD Program at http://leadkingcounty.org/ . There is a link to the Harm Reduction Report under the Evaluation tab.
    To many details to list for this article. Best to read about it at the LEAD web site. It isn’t a new program for Seattle, just new to Capitol Hill.

  4. THE REAL PROBLEMS IS NOT DRUGS OR GUNS BUT CRIMINAL POLITICIANS, PARTICULARLY THEI ARMED “LAW ENFORCERS” WITH GUNS, SHIELDED FROM JUSTICE BY GOVERNMENT ISSUED BADGES???? THESE BADGES PERMIT THE WEARERS TO BADGER AND MURDER UNARMED PEOPLE LIKE ELDERLY DISABLED NATIVE AMERICAN JOHN T. WILLIAMS, THAT US ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA “LYNCH” FOR GOT TO MENTION DURING HER DECEPTIVE PRAISE OF THE “POLICE GUILD” RUN ARMED GOVERNMENT ENFORCERS AGENCY (AGEA) HERE IN SEATTLE AND ACROSS AMERIKKKA???

    US ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH’S SPEECH AT A CLOSED “NON-PUBLIC” CLOSED “FORUM ON YOUTH GUN VIOLENCE”, ATTENDED BY A SELECTED POLICE GUILD CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE (PAM “DOWNTOWN” BANGSTER), THE CHIEF OF POLICE GUILD, THE BERTHA / TUNNEL MAYOR AND HAND PICKED “YESSAH BOSS” WANNABES, WAS/IS A VIOLATION OF CITY, COUNTY, STATE AND FEDERAL OPEN MEETINGS LAWS!!!

    THIS UNLAWFUL “NON-PUBLIC FORUM / MEETING” HELD AT THE URBAN LEAGUE’S FAKE NORTHWEST AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE MUSEUM (NAAM IS A SCAM), AT THE FAKE URBAN LEAGUE “VILLAGE”, WAS/IS TYPICAL OF SEATTLE’S ORGANIZED CRIME RICO-RACKETEERING “TOLERANCE POLICY CONTINUATION” OPERATIVES THAT US ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNCH’S GRAND JURY NEEDS TO FINISH INVESTIGATION STARTED WITH SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S RON “THE GODFATHER” ENGLISH SMALL BUSINESS / COLMAN SCHOOL SALE SCANDALS (READ “ON THE TAKE” BY WILLIAM CHAMBLISS AND HISTORIC ARTICLE IN SEATTLE WEEKLY “WHO REALLY RUNS SEATTLE”)??? THIS WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND WHY IAN “UNCLE IKE” EISENBERG IS OPENLY SELLING A “FEDERALLY ILLEGAL SCHEDULE 1 DRUG”, CLASSIFIED WITH COCAINE AND HEROINE NEXT TO A BLACK CHURCH AT 23RD AND UNION INSEATTLE’S HISTORIC AFRICATOWN . CENTRAL DISTRICT???

    WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE “DOWNTOWN BANKSTER” ,SOLUTIONLESS, STATUS QUO POLITICAL HACKS IN THE MOLD OF JAMES “GUNSLINGER” KELLY (FORMER HYPOCRITICAL CEO OF CORRUPT URBAN LEECH / CITY GUN BUY BACK PROGRAM FAME)??? PAM “DOWNTOWN” BANKSTER AND JAMES “GUNSLINGER” KELLY HAVE SIMPLY EXCHANGED JOBS TO MAINTAIN THE KNEE-GROW OWN NOTHING, FIGHT FOR NOTHING, YASSAH BOSS, ANTI- BLACK, PRO-GENTRIFICATION POLITICS???

    THE VOTERS HAVE SPOKEN??? NOW THE FEDERAL GRAND JURY NEEDS TO COMPLETE ITS INVESTIGATION OF THE URBAN LEAGUE / SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT / CITY OF SEATTLE RICO-RACKETEERING ORGANIZED CRIME OPERATIVES???

    YES, THE RED, BLACK AND GREEN PAN AFRICAN CROSS WALKS IN AFRICATOWN / CD ARE HERE IO STAY AS IS THE CHINESE GATE OVER THE PUBIC STREET IN “CHINATOWN” AND THE RAINBOW COLOR CROSSWALKS ON CAPITOL HILL??? Omari Tahir-Garrett

    Website: OmariForCityCouncil
    Website: AFRICATOWN / CHINATOWN NEWS DIGEST
    Website: prison2president