Whatcom County Launches LEAD Program, Offering People with Behavioral Health Issues Help over Handcuffs
The Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announced the launch of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, a collaborative effort to offer people with behavioral health issues who have committed low-level law violations–including malicious mischief, disorderly conduct, and drug charges–a path out of the criminal justice system and into intensive case management. The LEAD program aims to increase community safety, address racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and improve the health and well-being of people with behavioral health issues.
People experiencing mental illness, drug dependencies, and extreme poverty sometimes commit low-level law violations driven by their unmet needs. Like many other communities, Whatcom County struggles to adequately respond to people with behavioral health issues. Law enforcement is overly relied on to respond in these situations although they have few tools for offering meaningful help. In these cases, arrest and incarceration is ineffective, costly, and harmful. The experience can be traumatizing and increases the potential for re-offense. It damages relationships between law enforcement and the community, while reinforcing racial disparities in our criminal justice system.
“I have been a prosecutor a long time and at some point, I began questioning whether our current laws and sentencing guidelines really help people stop committing crimes and protect the community,” said Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney, Eric Richey. “I knew we needed to try something different.”
Read full press release here...