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Local law enforcement launches 'LEAD' - a new diversion program

Leaders from Portland and Multnomah County gathered at Central City Concern to launch a new one year pilot program called “LEAD" - which stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion.

The program's goal is to combat low level drug crimes in a new way by bringing Portland Police together with other city and county law enforcement agencies and leadership.

Arresting officers will now be able to offer community-based services to low level offenders instead of jail time. The focus for patrol and potential arrests will be in downtown Portland and the Lloyd District.

Central City Concern is managing the program and the individual cases. Karen Kern is a Senior Director of Substance Use Disorders at Central City Concern.

“This just gives us another way to approach people who haven't fit into any of the programs that we have so far. And because it's so sort of individualized and non-prescriptive in a way we're hoping that it will be successful," said Kern.

Participants can stay with the program as long as they need to, and will not be kicked out if they do not get clean. The philosophy is harm reduction, self-directed action, and eventual self-sufficiency.

LEAD has been working in Seattle, and Portland is using that program as its model.

In fact, Seattle saw a 58% drop in reoffenders after the program was implemented. LEAD is now operating in five other cities around the country. Others are either exploring, developing or launching it soon.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners set aside $800,000 from the 2016 year to fund the program. Other funds are coming from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

A policy team will continue to monitor the financial needs of the program. Meanwhile, local stakeholders will keep track of other statistics to gauge the success of the program over the next year.

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