ANNAPOLIS — Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford recently announced the launch of two new law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) initiatives to sites in Carroll and Harford Counties.
The announcement was made during the two-day Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) Summit, hosted by the Commission to Study Mental & Behavioral Health in Maryland, which Rutherford chairs. The SIM Summit brings together stakeholders from behavioral health and the criminal justice system to explore how the SIM framework can be used to improve outcomes for adults with mental and substance use disorders who are involved, or at risk for involvement in the criminal justice system.
LEAD empowers law enforcement officers to refer individuals who may have a substance use disorder to public health services instead of making an arrest, and reduces costs related to the criminal justice system — a major goal of the Justice Reinvestment Act. According to a University of Washington Harborview Medical Center study, this model improves public safety and individual outcomes including a 58 percent reduction in recidivism, and increased likelihood that diverted individuals obtain housing, employment and see increased income.
“I was pleased to announce this expansion today in front of more than one hundred experts and stakeholders in the mental health and criminal justice communities,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “The LEAD Program is a great example of how we can improve the system of delivery for individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, make interactions between these individuals and law enforcement safer, and improve outcomes for all involved.”
The Hogan-Rutherford Administration committed $50 million in state funds to address the opioid crisis in Maryland over five years, beginning in fiscal year 2018, through initiatives spearheaded by the Opioid Operational Command Center, Maryland Department of Health, and other supporting agencies. The Administration also recently announced $6.4 million in funding awarded to the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services by the Department of Justice to support the three-year Maryland Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-Based Program, a coordinated, statewide response to the opioid crisis.
“Diverting someone from arrest and toward public health resources empowers our state to meet people in their time of need and allows us direct valuable resources toward reducing violent crime,” said Glenn Fueston, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services. “Our office is dedicated to supporting interagency partnership and collaboration between law enforcement, public health experts, and service providers that are crucial to building a safer and healthier Maryland.”
The recent expansion is led by the Westminster and Bel Air Police Departments. The Westminster Police Department will partner with the Carroll County Health Department, State’s Attorney’s Office, Parole and Probation, and other community and law enforcement partners to implement LEAD throughout Westminster.
“Substance Use Disorder is a complex matter that has adversely impacted communities across Maryland. Addiction, and some of the behaviors associated with it, cannot be addressed through an approach solely focused on law enforcement and criminal prosecution,” said Westminster Police Chief, Thomas Ledwell. “The public health focus of LEAD provides us with the opportunity to improve the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable members while also enhancing safety in our community. All of us at the Westminster Police Department look forward to collaborating with our partner agencies to reduce criminal recidivism stemming from addiction.”
The Bel Air Police Department is working with Springboard Community Services to implement LEAD in their jurisdiction with the support of the Harford County Health Department, State’s Attorney’s Office, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, and other community partners.
“Officers from the Bel Air Police Department are excited to have the opportunity to further strengthen our partnerships with the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services, behavioral health experts, the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office, and other community-based partners concerning LEAD’s Implementation,” said Bel Air Police Department Chief Charles Moore. “A more comprehensive, trauma-informed approach to policing is vital. Partnering with behavioral health professionals creates a longer-term solution for individuals potentially potentially suffering from addiction, untreated mental illness, and poverty. The program also ensures that victims of low-level criminal acts are not forgotten.”
Currently, there are nine LEAD locations: Baltimore City, Washington County, Bel Air, and Westminster are active, while Annapolis, along with Howard, St. Mary’s, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties are in the planning stages, and plan to launch programs in 2021.