OSI-Baltimore director Diana Morris joined Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and other leaders at police headquarters today for a press conference to announce the launch of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. (Watch the full press conference here.) LEAD aims to reduce the number of people jailed due to low-level drug offenses by diverting offenders to treatment and other support services and away from arrest. OSI-Baltimore, the primary funder of the program, made the announcement in late 2015.
For more than a year, OSI has coordinated and supported the joint efforts of Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB), the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), and the State’s Attorney’s office to design and implement the program.
BHSB CEO and president Kathleen Westcoat started off the press conference and offered “a special thank you to the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, Diana Morris, whose support and advocacy has made this entire thing possible.”
Mosby introduced Morris and OSI, which she described as an “amazing organization,” and mentioned our work to increase school attendance and improve access to drug addiction treatment.
“The LEAD program is exactly the kind of innovative program we look to support,” Morris said in her remarks. “For people with substance use issues, the LEAD program decreases the negative impact of being pulled into the criminal justice system and increases the likelihood that they will find effective treatment. At the same time, LEAD improves public safety by allowing the police department to focus its resources on addressing violent crime while. It is truly a win-win for Baltimore.”
Baltimore Crisis Response Inc will operate the case management program with oversight by BHSB. Today’s launch was on a limited basis, but the program is expected to expand this year to include at least 60 participants and will be limited to those suspected of low-level drug or prostitution crimes.
In announcing the launch, Baltimore Police Commission Kevin Davis acknowledged the need to pivot from a criminal approach to Baltimore’s opioid addiction epidemic toward a public health one. “We’re hopeful that this will be another step in restoring more positive relationships between law enforcement and the community,” he said.
Police can refer individuals suspected of low-level drug or prostitution crimes to case managers for drug treatment, mental health services and housing aid.