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Monroe Co. Groups Advocate For Pre-Arrest Diversion Programs

The LEAD program is designed to reduce jail populations by referring offenders to rehabilitation programs. (Alex Eady, WTIU/WFIU News)

The Indiana Recovery Alliance and the Monroe County Opioid Commission partnered for a presentation Friday on pre-arrest diversion programs.

The national program called LEAD, or Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, started in Seattle. It’s designed to reduce jail populations by referring offenders to rehabilitation programs instead.

Indiana Recovery Alliance Program Director Chris Abert says LEAD could be a vital resource for local offenders dealing with addiction.

“An officer comes across somebody who is suspected of a crime, that crime is tied to poverty, mental illness or drug use, and they can use their discretion, rather than arrest them, to do a pre-arrest diversion into services,” he says.

The learning session featured comments from Robert Childs, a LEAD harm reduction expert from North Carolina, and Donnie Varnell, a representative from the North Carolina Department of Justice. Both say the program has made headway in improving the criminal justice system in their own communities.

Joe Qualters is the Deputy Chief for the Bloomington Police Department. He says although he recognizes potential downsides to the program, the police department’s involvement in this conversation is critical to its success.

“This is an option for law enforcement to consider, it is another alternative to taking someone to jail and it’s certainly a program that may offer some promise,” he says.

The Indiana Recovery Alliance and the Monroe County Opioid Commission will hold a community summit and a stakeholder meeting next week to continue educating the public on the LEAD program.

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