In February, OSI-Baltimore announced the launch of Baltimore’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, a program first piloted in Seattle that re-directs people who would otherwise be booked for low-level drug offenses to treatment and other support services. OSI is the primary funder for the local program, which was developed in coordination with Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB), the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), and the State’s Attorney’s office.
In just a few short months, Baltimore’s program has 25 total referrals, with 20 individuals currently involved in the LEAD process. According to Daniel Atzmon, the LEAD program manager at BHSB, Baltimore is ahead of every other LEAD site at this point, and in some cases, by a significant amount.
Of the 25 total referrals, five were through arrest referrals. That is, five individuals were approached by law enforcement and would have been booked on drug-related charges, but instead were diverted to the LEAD program. Fifteen were social referrals, meaning officers offered individuals the opportunity to join the program based on previous interactions, but without having any cause to arrest them at the moment of contact. A few individuals were ineligible for the program for various reasons.
In some cases, the individual may have been on probation or parole, or the person didn’t assess as having a substance use issue, but had other needs. In those instances, the individuals were referred to support services elsewhere. Of the 25 total referrals, two were referred after being saved by the administration of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
Atzmon credits the progress of the program so far to strong police support and officer buy-in.
Just after announcing the launch of the program, Scott Nolen, director of OSI-Baltimore’s Drug Addiction Treatment program, discussed the importance of tailoring LEAD to fit Baltimore’s particular needs on the Marc Steiner show.