Attitudes towards those suffering from addiction on the streets are changing in Seattle; harm-reduction is fast becoming a priority over incarceration and punishment. The Seattle-based program Law Enforcement Diversion Program (LEAD) exemplifies this, and illustrates a need for more compassion and caring when approaching addiction.
LEAD: Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion
Now in its fourth year, LEAD began as a pilot program focused on harm reduction for drug users and alcoholics on the streets of Seattle. It is a remarkable collaboration between various groups, all working together to create a stable program that provides real help to those that need it.
Law enforcement groups such as Seattle police and other first responders work alongside state prosecutors, counselors, harm-reduction experts, and those actually going through the program to provide a comprehensive approach to drug addicts and alcoholics living on the streets. These groups aim to help people get their lives back on track and become productive members of society rather than putting them in prison for petty crimes.
How Does LEAD Work?
If you are homeless and addicted to drugs or alcohol, crime may be a constant aspect of your life. You may find yourself committing petty crimes such as robbery and drug dealing in order to acquire the bare necessities such as food and shelter. In addition, you may commit crimes in order to gain access to the substance to which you are addicted. This creates a vicious cycle that is difficult to break, keeping you addicted and homeless.
LEAD currently has 203 participants, and recent numbers show that those participants are now 58 percent less likely to be arrested committing further crimes to survive. LEAD aims to divert those who would normally be participating in illegal activities toward services such as housing, health care, job training, and addiction treatment.
This diversion not only helps save lives but also ultimately benefits the community as a whole. Less crime means a safer place to live. It also means fewer tax dollars spent on court costs and maintaining law enforcement systems. This replaces the previous negative feedback loop into a positive one, reinforcing communities and improving people’s lives.
The Reality of the “War on Drugs”
LEAD is unique in the United States, inspired by similar programs in both the United Kingdom and Portugal. It is now commonly understood that the traditional US approach to illegal drug use, referred to as the ‘war on drugs’, is not working. It is expensive, time-consuming, and ineffectual. LEAD offers a new approach dealing with drug addiction, effectively saving time, money, and lives.
LEAD is structured differently than other housing or treatment initiatives in that there are no arbitrary time limits on participants. They are not required to maintain their housing or jobs for a set amount of time, allowing individuals to work on their own schedule according to their needs. In addition, drug users are not expected to abstain from their addictions. Instead, they are offered treatment options and health care to help them decide to stop using, whenever and however is best for them. This individualized method has proven to be effective, encouraging more participation from those who fear other programs that require abstinence.
Moving from LEAD into Further Treatment
Once addicts decide they are ready to achieve full recovery from their addiction, Recovery Village at Ridgefield is ready to welcome them. We offer treatment options tailored to each individual’s specific needs, continuing the personalized experience that LEAD offers and taking it into further treatment.
Reach out and experience the difference that Recovery Village at Ridgefield makes in the lives of hundreds of Washington residents each and every day. Contact us and start your journey today.