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Even with few arrests under Seattle’s new drug law, city’s diversion program won’t be able to keep up in 2024

(Image: Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion)

There has been about one arrest per day under Seattle’s new public drug use law but a core city program hoped to divert more of those arrested out of jail and into rehab still won’t be able to keep up next year.

In a presentation (PDF) to a Seattle City Council committee this week, officials said Seattle Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program or LEAD will reach its capacity for serving new referrals by May of 2024.

The Seattle Police Department reported fewer than 50 arrests had been made under the new drug law through November with 33 people diverted. LEAD stats show a big bump in the final weeks of October as the law went into effect that has since leveled off.

But the program’s capacity is still about to reach a breaking point.

CHS reported here on the passage of the new law opening the way for more arrests and prosecution of public use of drugs like meth and fentanyl while also earmarking millions in spending for diversion and treatment programs.

But many of those millions represent money already needed by LEAD and without additional funding, it won’t be able to keep up. SPD projections show there could be up to 700 diversions in 2024.

“We do not have capacity to take even that number of new referrals, and continue to work with our existing clients,” Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association, told KUOW, “let alone also accommodate community referrals.”

(Image: Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion)

(Image: Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion)

According to LEAD, it currently is managing 759 participants assigned to around 50 case managers. Officials say the program has capacity to add about 300 new participants.

CHS reported here in 2015 as LEAD added Capitol Hill to its area of “Community Referral Coverage.”

 

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Matt
Matt
4 months ago

This was obviously going to happen as an outcome of this law without major investments in treatment and housing to go along with it…

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

You are correct. Nobody gets clean living on the streets. Making sobriety a prerequisite for housing is like making a PhD a prerequisite
for college admission.

jujifruit_afriendofJudy
jujifruit_afriendofJudy
4 months ago

Aw sad, just more job security for the SPD.If there’s no crime then no bajillion dollar budget so they can wait around waiting to run over pedestrians instead of protecting citizens. Crime pays the time.

Reality
Reality
4 months ago

Only one a day?!? They need to seriously step this up. At the very least, anyone caught blatantly smoking fentanyl in public places should have their drugs and paraphernalia confiscated and get a trip down to the station.

Summit Man
Summit Man
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

Get over it, for real. People can do whatever they want to their body. Was he blowing it in your face? No? Then move on.

Hillery
Hillery
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

People are just mocking the law outside the QFC and other “pockets”’ in the area doing the drugs and blowing it in peoples face in broad daylight. SMH

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Hillery

That’s because they know this new law is a joke. For once, I wish the city and medical and social services professionals would engage the very people they are trying to reach. Hey, maybe get THEIR input as to what would be helpful to THEM?!

Any homeless person addicted to drugs isn’t going to take this seriously, especially given the city couldn’t even see one step ahead, which is where in the system are you going to put these folks? This new program is about as well thought out as a child’s game of hide and seek.

Matt
Matt
4 months ago
Reply to  Fritz Wagner

The medical and social services professionals were saying this law would have little impact without more investment in treatment programs and housing… Stop laying blame at the people actually doing the hard work and look at the people controlling the purse strings please!

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

I’m not laying blame at the people doing the hard work. I’m blaming this inane new law. That’s why I said: ” THIS PROGRAM is about as well thought out…” and not “THESE PEOPLE”, see the difference?

I also stated the law isn’t being taken seriously as ” the city couldn’t see one step ahead…”, how do you equate that with me blaming Social Workers and outreach workers for an ill-conceived law?

Yes, I said the CC along with others need input from the population they serve, that’s a far cry from blaming them for a crappy law.

BTW, I served the homeless population for a decade along with 2 decades working with the drug addicted population, I’d be the last person to criticize front line workers. I served as a liason between the homeless population and SPD North Precinct.

Please try reading all of my posts again, see if you may have misread them.

Matt
Matt
4 months ago
Reply to  Fritz Wagner

I appreciate your decades of work and your other comments here. It may have been unintentional, but it definitely reads here like you’re blaming the city, medical, and social services professionals for not engaging:
“For once, I wish the city and medical and social services professionals would engage the very people they are trying to reach.”

I think there are plenty of medical and social professionals that have engaged with the populations they serve, and have a good understanding of the need, it’s just that there isn’t political nor social will to actually implement them as needed… Many of them spoke out about these exact shortcomings of this law

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

The only thing that will solve homelessness is homes. If one doesn’t have a place to sleep, perform hygiene and eat three nutritious meals per day there is no hope for long term recovery from drugs, trauma and/or disabilities.

King County recently offered Burien $1Million to build 37 tiny homes. Why didn’t the city take the money? Because they’re ” not sure how to maintain them after the initial build” If anyone thinks this is adult response in search of a real solution to homelessness you’d probably be a great candidate to sit on any number of city councils.

It’s the precise jobs of these overpaid and under scrutinized elected officials to find additional sources of funding to maintain what KC wants to start and all they give for an excuse is basically tantamount to them saying they either don’t know what their jobs really are or they’re not up to the task of fulfilling their duties.

Seattle was given $1Million by Pearl Jam a few years ago. Not a single city official can tell anyone where a single dime of that money went! There are no donations, projects, etc to point to from a $1MILLION gift.

Find out whose pockets that money went into and you’ll find out why the powers don’t want homelessness to end, it’s a huge cash cow for donors and elected officials alike.

The Seattle mayor has slated $27 Million to “fight homelessness “……not a single housing unit is to be built. It’s time for a stellar investigative reporter to track exactly where this $27Million ends up.

Matt
Matt
3 months ago
Reply to  Fritz Wagner

We’re on the same page Fritz. The Burien situation is asinine, last I heard the city is going after a church for trying to step in and do what the city would not and provide at least a barebones shelter within the city…

Mayor Harrel spoke a big game about data transparency and tracking metrics, but the only metric on the One Seattle dashboard that shows time series data is for shelter/service referrals, which is a pretty meaningless statistic without knowing the outcomes of those referrals…

Mars Saxman
Mars Saxman
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

How do you propose we should pay for the additional police hours and jail time your plan would involve?

If we had that extra money, wouldn’t we do better to fund long term diversion programs like the one in the article, instead of playing more games of catch & release with street addicts?

Summit Man
Summit Man
4 months ago

lol at ever treating drugs as “criminal” in the first place

capi
capi
4 months ago
Reply to  Summit Man

The European countries that have tried different approaches to dealing with the opioid epidemic have indeed used the criminal process to do so.

The difference is that they offer the addicted the choice of mandatory rehab or mandatory jail. Not surprisingly most choose rehab. Those who do so are treated with compassion, but it is still a criminal process.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  capi

Actually, Australia legalized shooting galleries for heroin users decades ago. The mean age of heroin users has been steadily going up since then. This illustrates that legalizing drugs and safe places to use them under medical professional supervision does NOT encourage young people to take up using heroin. The result? No public drug use, no dirty needles strewn on the ground, many fewer overdoses and get thus, it costs a TON LESS than this well-intentioned yet wildly erroneous and faulty attempt at reducing drug use through the legal system. Lastly, Many people consider drug dependence as a disease, including our nation’s
medical and psychological associations. Have you advocated locking up cancer patients?

Sam
Sam
4 months ago
Reply to  Fritz Wagner

That’s not what happened when Seattle effectively legalized all drugs. My employees and I started having to clean up giant, black-as-tar heroin shits, needles, even unmentionable bodily fluids. I think the culture of a place dictates a lot about what methods work. Straight legalization does not appear to be something we can handle.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Sam

Seattle didn’t do what they did in Australia. Please re-read and then look it up for yourself, it’s the best way one can learn.

When you say “effectively legalized” that does not include legal shooting galleries…..which is how Australia controls the very messes you are unfortunately dealing with.

Imagine that instead of people seeking refuge around your place of business they had legal places, indoors to use drugs? They are mandated to stay at the facility under medical supervision. They have hygiene stations for them as well They no longer seek out doorways, alleys, etc.

How does that sound for you and your employees?

I’m not sure what you’re referring to regarding the culture mandating what works….as homeless addicted people pretty much share the same struggles no matter their culture. But I’d like to hear more.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Summit Man

Preach.

Reality
Reality
4 months ago

The ideological social experiment has failed. We need to shift focus to harm reduction for Seattle residents and businesses that have suffered under 10 years of failed policies that have enabled drug use and attracted thousands of fentanyl addicts from across the country to the city. “Harm reduction” drug policy has been a catastrophic and deadly failure as applied in Seattle and other west coast cities. If it was truly “evidence based”, we would shift dramatically away from the the “harm reduction” policies that have lead to exponential growth of drug addicts in the city and drug addicts dying from overdose deaths. Public drug use laws need to be strictly enforced. Only one arrest per day is ridiculous. I am not aware of anywhere else in the world that tolerates this level of drug dystopia in the public square. The lose of life and the lose of quality of life is extreme and requires a much stronger course correction away from the no-consequences status quo than we have seen so far. Hopefully the new council has a backbone.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

Harm reduction saves lives, period.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33079317/

This is what evidence based means.
A peer reviewed actual collection of data.

What is your proof that Seattle policies have “attracted thousands of fentanyl addicts from across the country”?

I’d be interested in reading these studies that track homeless drug users and their state of origin. Also, reading how homeless drug addicts hear about Seattle policies on the streets of, say Vermont or Nebraska would be an interesting read.

Afterall, you’re a champion of evidence based claims so I’m positive you have the data to back your assertions.

IMO, such hyperbolic statements are only meant to be politically charged accusations without offering any type of real solution. You say that there should be more than one arrest per day. Did you not get that the program cannot process or treat the one per day currently?

When we come from a place of punishment to address a public health crisis we will only end up piling more barriers in front of those who are least capable of handling them. It unwittingly perpetuates the cycle of addiction.

Reality
Reality
4 months ago
Reply to  Fritz Wagner

Thanks for the link to an activist law professor’s opinion piece. This was exactly the “evidence” I was looking for that “harm reduction” as applied in North America is grounded in ideology not science.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

NIH and NIDA are not activists

You have to read more than the abstract.

Maybe this will help you

https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/2022/12/nih-launches-harm-reduction-research-network-to-prevent-overdose-fatalities

“Getting people into treatment for substance use disorders is critical, but first, people need to survive to have that choice,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “Harm reduction services acknowledge this reality by aiming to meet people where they are to improve health, prevent overdoses, save lives and provide treatment options to individuals. Research to better understand how different harm reduction models may work in communities across the country is therefore crucial to address the overdose crisis strategically and effectively.”

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

I’m still interested in the studies showing thousands of homeless drug addicted folks are flocking to Seattle because of our laws….when you have a minute!

Here is some more reading for you from SAMHSA….also not activists, but scientists and medical professionals.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/harm-reduction

Thanks in advance for links to the evidence you cited!

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

https://www.cdc.gov/ssp/syringe-services-programs-faq.html

I don’t believe you’re aware of what harm reduction really is.

Harm reduction strategies include syringe services programs, which provide access to and disposal of sterile syringes and injection equipment; vaccines; testing; and connections to medications for infectious diseases and substance use disorders. Other examples of harm reduction tools are naloxone for opioid overdose reversal and rapid-acting fentanyl test strips, which can be used by individuals or community clinics to check local drug supplies for the presence of fentanyl, which is widely available and driving all-time high numbers of deadly overdoses.

Reality
Reality
4 months ago
Reply to  Fritz Wagner

I know what harm reduction is. I used to support it, but over the years, it has become glaringly obvious that it is growing the problem in Seattle rather than delivering the promised results, and the societal cost, which isn’t accounted for in the studies, is way too high. The problem is that in the era of fentanyl, the addicts destroying the city and dying on the streets don’t have the agency to change on their own because the drugs are too addictive. The missing pieces in Seattle are enforcement and mandatory drug treatment. I am happy to pay higher taxes for mandatory drug treatment but not for more carrots. All carrots and no sticks leads to a lot of rabbits. Lots of rabbits = crime, disorder, encampments, fires, drug dealers, gang turf wars and gun violence.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

You say you know what harm reduction is. So explain hoe measures to save lives makes the problem worse.

BTW, you say you used to support harm reduction…did you support it without knowing it “wasn’t based in science”..as you have previously stated?

The societal cost of no harm reduction is an explosion of public health crisis like HIV, people dying, etc.

Again, I’m looking for you proof that Seattle policies attracted drugs addicts from across the country.

You’re wasting your money on drug tx if the people you are treating don’t have a home, food, shower, etc to go to after tx.

The missing piece is not punishment, it’s housing then tx.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

I am still looking for the science that supports your assertions. I’ve supplied plenty for you, care to return the favor?

zach
zach
4 months ago

It’s early days for the new drug law, so too soon to make any conclusions about efficacy. If new “diversion capacity” is needed, then hopefully the new CIty Council will step up and make sure this is funded. Meanwhile, the arrest of 50, with 33 diverted, is a good start.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  zach

Do you believe a person who is addicted to drugs, and most likely experiencing comorbid mental health and physical health issues, can maintain sobriety without stable housing?

I believe Maslow was correct.

We agree that treatment is the goal. But trying to build the infrastructure for the consequences of this new law after its implementation is typical shortsightedness of the sobriety before basic needs paradigm.

Can the CC address this rather large and very expensive infrastructure deficit in a few months?

I don’t see a track record that would support that kind of bet in Vegas.

But I’m always open to being wrong, especially if it means vulnerable populations’ basic human needs are being met before we ask them to do something that is extremely difficult, even for those with money, supportive family and friends and a safe, warm place to sleep, to achieve and maintain.

Neighbor
Neighbor
4 months ago
Reply to  zach

City, county and state already massively fund LEAD, REACH and PDA, all of which are the same organization and the go-to for our current city council, which does not require those organizations to be effective. At what point do we include reduced recidivism as a measure of success? People on LEAD actually commit more misdemeanor crimes rather than less, per LEADs only stats several years ago.

Reality
Reality
4 months ago

Repeat offenders should be referred to Lisa daugaard’s house in Tacoma. Seattle has been dealing with the consequences of this program’s magical thinking and lack of accountability for years.

Fritz Wagner
Fritz Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

You keep saying harm reduction doesn’t work. I’ve given you multiple articles based in science that directly contradict your lie.

You REFUSE to support your stances with any type of empirical evidence. Your fantastical stories of drug addicts traveling thousands of miles to use drugs on street corners in Seattle is laughable, as are your other ramblings.
.
You say you used to support HR, but also say it’s not based in science. So do you often support ideas and programs you know very little about or was your support for HR a lie?

You seem to want to dox people with whom you disagree. See your comment on Lisa D. You offer nothing but hate filled rhetoric, ideas of harrassing public officials at their homes and incredibly sophomoric critiques on topics of which you have little to no real knowledge. You dodge every direct question question asked of you.

You are a very transparent person.

Your eagerness to put other people down to make yourself feel better is on full display. It’s the orange way.

Neighbor
Neighbor
3 months ago
Reply to  Fritz Wagner

He’s correct to question the power given to Lisa D. She is the most powerful un-elected person in Seattle, and doesn’t choose to live here or raise her child here. Instead she weilds enormous power, has a seemingly never ending plan to expand her reach in to all the money pots city, county, state and federal, and is rarely ever asked to account for the efficacy of any of her numerous social experiment programs, for which we all pay and, arguably, suffer.