Kris Nyrop from Seattle, USA is the Director of Harm Reduction Practices and plays a key role in the L.E.A.D project. LEAD is a hugely successful “Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion” program. LEAD has an innovative approach to Harm Reduction and the results are staggering. They have gathered all community resources and a Case Management Team to provide an alternative to Addiction and its criminal activities. In October of 2011, Seattle launched LEAD as a pilot project and soon neighbourhoods were demanding it to be in their communities as well.This program has had huge success in reducing crime rates, reducing health care costs, and ultimately reducing the number of people actively addicted in the USA.
- Kris explains what LEAD is and its origins. Police were arresting the same people over and over again, many of whom were addicted. Police collaborated with community resources and created a diversion program for the repeat offender. The offender is given a 2nd option instead of jail. They can be diverted to a case management team that will do everything in their power to help the individual head towards a healthier, legal way of life.
- Kris and Matt talk about the fact that despite everyone collaborating were coming from different backgrounds, they could all agree that the current take on “war on drugs” simply wasn’t working.
- Kris explains how police could remove the barrier of another charge or arrest by offering the 2nd option of case management. If the 2nd option is requested then a case manager would physically show up to do immediate triage. They find out who the individual is, where they are staying, and what their needs are for future contact.
- They find out what the immediate need is of the individual, and in further meetings will develop a trusting relationship, which can take months for the deeper issues/needs to surface.
- Kris emphasizes on how this relationship takes time and involves many small steps. This program is Harm Reduction on a long term basis with barriers such as NOT having to be abstinent from substance abuse removed.
- After awhile the front line police officers began asking, “DO we need to ARREST people to get them into this program?” Now police can make a referral to case management, which removes the barriers of repeat arrests. The Police and Case Managers meet twice a month so they can exchange info and review possible future LEAD individuals.
- Kris recalls an example of success and how these success stories help continued funding. Approx. 60% of clients who utilized LEAD sought treatment or changed from illegal to legal substances.
- Kris and Matt briefly discuss costs related to the program and the difficulty in translating US healthcare system and dollars compared to Canadian systems. The average cost of an individual using the LEAD program was approx. $2,700 per year including dental or private treatment costs.
- They discuss the cost of repeated 911 emergency calls, ambulance and expensive health costs and how this program alleviates those costs.
- Kris says that it is much cheaper to use the LEAD alternative than the current criminal justice system.
“LEAD people are 58% LESS likely to repeat a criminal offence, (after using our program).”
“Even before we had any evaluation results at all, residents in adjoining neighbourhoods went to the Mayor and asked why they didn’t have LEAD in their communities as well.. Neighbours demanded to have it.”
“We all came from different backgrounds; the one thing we could agree on was that what we were doing - wasn’t working.” followed by “Then WHY wouldn’t we do something Different?!”
“Nothing is off the table when it comes to a personal advocate. We do as much as we possibly can for them.”
“56% of them had no ID, a Case Manager can definitely help with that; and having ID, makes a huge difference.”
“It takes time. We are working on a long term basis in small incremental steps.”
LEAD Homepage: www.leadbureau.org
Canadian Research Initiative of Substance Misuse (CRISM) Prairies website: https://crismprairies.ca/
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