ByCarol McCracken (Post # 2,279)
A pilot program designed to give those about to be arrested on low-level drug charges or for prostitution an alternative to the court system was described this afternoon at a meeting of the Substance Abuse Task Force at city hall. Kris Nyrop, of Washington State, presented a program still in its infancy, but expected to meet its goals when an evaluation of it is released soon. LEAD – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – is a collaboration between the local police department and the social services community that has not been adequately explored until this program was implemented last year.
Courts are always looking for ways to divert substance abusers into recovery programs said District Court Judge Keith Powers today. “This program has potential,” he said. Judge Powers attended the presentation to learn about it because he is unfamiliar with it. “I’m an observer,” he said. His remarks came following Nyrop’s noontime presentation. The Committee was convened last year by Mayor Michael Brennan and is co-chaired by Day One Executive Director, David J. Faulkner, MSW and Rep. David Farnsworth, Portland.
Given the choice between arrest and going through the court system or being diverted into a drug rehab program, many will choose the latter route said Nyrop. “The Court system does not work for everyone.” The program was the brainchild of a police officer who was seeing way too many home burglaries. The drug user must agree to go through a drug intake program within 30 days or risk that dreaded arrest and the consequences. The “drug of choice” is crack cocaine in the few neighborhoods where this program was initiated in 2013 around Seattle. Most of the participants, 56%, are from the older population who have been dealing with drug problems for years. Eighty-six % are homeless at the outset of the program. One of the goals is to find housing for the participants through the use of housing vouchers the program provides.
LEAD is a pilot program in several communities in the Seattle, Washington area. It is hoped that because of the anticipated success of the program, it will be expanded to even more communities in the city.
Stay tuned because you may be hearing much more about he LEAD program in Portland in the coming days and months.