LEAD Program

The LEAD model (known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and now also known as Let Everyone Advance with Dignity) enhances safety, health, and equity by building a community-based alternative to arrest and incarceration for people whose unlawful behavior stems from unmanaged substance use, mental health challenges, or extreme poverty.

Over 35 communities across the U.S. have adopted the LEAD program, including Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Denver County, and Philadelphia. Through their example, Whatcom County’s LEAD partners are building a program that meets our community’s needs. Read more about the program’s successes in other communities at www.leadbureau.org/evaluations.

Who LEAD Serves 

LEAD works with people who have frequent interactions with law enforcement and  low-level criminal offenses emanating from mental and behavioral health challenges, substance use, homelessness and extreme poverty. 

After joining the program, members get help with their immediate worries–a meal, place to sleep, or clean clothes. But they continue building a relationship with their intensive case manager over the months to deal with the roots of their challenges.

They can get help with needs that are difficult to manage alone, including stable housing, medication management, drug treatment, job opportunities, and family reconciliation.

Through the intensive case manager, members have someone on “their side”: a person who understands their struggles and offers a kind word, rides to appointments, and assistance navigating our systems 

LEAD Community Partners

The Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office introduced LEAD to our community in 2019 and the program launched in 2020. Multiple organizations have since joined in partnership:

  • Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office
  • Bellingham Police Department
  • All municipal police departments in Whatcom County
  • Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
  • Bellingham City Attorney’s Office
  • Whatcom County Probation
  • Whatcom County Therapeutic Courts
  • Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office
  • Whatcom County Jail
  • Opportunity Council
  • Northwest Youth Services
  • Lake Whatcom Residential & Treatment Center
  • Cascade Medical Advantage
  • Unity Care NW
  • Compass Health
  • SeaMar Community Health Center
  • Catholic Community Services
  • PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center
  • And many more!

LEAD Program Success

Watch the following video to hear voices from the LEAD program and how the program has impacted people within Whatcom County.