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BHI Creates Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program to Reduce Recidivism Among Low-Level Offenders

11/15/2018
4:46 PM
Breanna Anderson, (505) 228-5556, abizbybre@gmail.com

Bernalillo County - This week officials with the Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) announced the county is receiving $50,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Innovation Fund to pursue an evidence-based program which employs diversion strategies for individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) or serious mental illness (SMI) who cycle in and out of the justice system for low level crimes. The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program proposes interventions for low-level offenses for individuals who struggle with SUD and/or SMI, which will in turn reduce recidivism among this population resulting in lower crime and fewer emergency room visits. Beyond the recognized benefit to the individuals who will receive medical and recovery services, the program will lower costs to the community and allow the justice system to focus on serious offenders.

The Bernalillo County LEAD effort represents a collaboration among several justice system partners including the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office (DA), and the Public Defender. diversion approach will focus on low-level drug offenses and property crimes, prostitution and activities such as trespassing, loitering and vagrancy, for which individuals will be screened for substance use disorders and serious mental illness. When SUD or SMI are identified, law enforcement personnel will consult with the DA’s office seeking consent to divert rather than arrest, and if there is consensus, then coordinate with a case manager who will determine the best diversion options for the individual. Funds will be utilized to support case management services. Case managers will work with MATS to engage the individual in detox, supportive after care and inebriate intervention programs as well as inpatient substance abuse treatment services. first phase of the LEAD program will be piloted out of Albuquerque’s SE Area Command, where APD Officers will use LEAD strategies to incorporate a diversion approach for low level offenders.

Individuals served by the LEAD program who are struggling with drug abuse disorders and/or mental illness, will receive ongoing health and social services support in order to break the cycle of recidivism and achieve a better quality of life. Other targeted outcomes for both individuals and the community include improved housing retention, increased access to preventative medical and behavioral health services, enhanced education and employment opportunities and reduced costs to the criminal justice and medical systems. Case studies of other cities which have LEAD programs demonstrate significant savings to the system, as well as reduction in recidivism. Incorporating similar techniques, Boulder, Colorado’s program has realized approximately $3 million in savings annually in jail and emergency department costs.

“The Bernalillo County LEAD program is reflective of a system-wide commitment to improving outcomes and reducing harm for individuals struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues in our community, with the added long-term benefit of reducing crime,” said Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, Director of Bernalillo County BHI. “When we work together to leverage resources and reduce harm, the positive implications for improved quality of life for our residents is tremendous.”

“Together with Bernalillo County, the Albuquerque Police Department has increased its focus on strategies to end the cycle of repeat offenders returning to the community to commit additional crimes. This program does so in a compassionate way, that provides help for individuals whose low-level crimes are often fueled by mental illness or substance abuse and addiction. We are proud to be a partner in this effort,” said Deputy Chief Eric Garcia.

“There is growing demand for criminal justice reform across the country, and local jurisdictions are leading the way,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Justice Reform. “MacArthur is increasing our investment in local just reform innovations because we are seeing promising results and an appetite for more reform as evidenced by the diversity and creativity of the solutions implemented and tested across the Network.”

Bernalillo County was one of 12 jurisdictions to receive grants from the Innovation Fund to design and test innovative criminal justice reforms. According to its mission, the MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.

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