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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive Constantine announces expansion of promising LEAD diversion program to Burien, other King County cities

Summary

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that his 2019-2020 budget proposal includes $3.1 million to expand Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) to three King County cities, beginning with Burien.

Story

Under a budget proposal from Executive Constantine, about 100 people involved in low-level drug crimes in Burien will be referred to LEAD and receive community-based care next year.  Two other South County cities are expected to join LEAD in the next two years, providing police and others with alternatives to traditional arrest and court appearances.

“For most people seeking treatment, we have essentially reached treatment on demand for opiate use disorder. Those who want help can immediately get into detox, or receive outpatient, residential, and medication-assisted care,” said Executive Constantine. “Our next great challenge is to reach people who are not currently seeking services. With LEAD, we have more opportunities to meet people where they are struggling, and offer the chance of a better life.”

“The answer to drug addiction isn’t found in a courtroom or jail cell but instead through a system of community-based care. The LEAD program has convinced me that our tax dollars are better spent helping people with addiction rather than punishing them,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.

“Expanding the LEAD program to Burien will give our Deputies more options when patrolling our streets,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. “Many of the low level drug users our Deputies encounter are homeless and simply need help. Hauling them to jail for a low level drug crime only helps to keep them in the cycle of despair….referring them to LEAD gives them hope. In turn, the program allows us to reduce crime related to the drug trade.”

 The funding, $3.1 million, will come from the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency fund, a countywide 0.1 percent sales tax generating about $134 million per biennium.

Approximately $430,000 will be directed to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for additional staffing. The balance of the funds will be contracted to the Public Defender Association and their behavioral health subcontractors to provide outreach and case management.

This fall, the Burien City Council will be presented with information about LEAD services, and how they can be tailored to Burien’s specific needs. Council will have the opportunity to discuss and potentially take action to authorize the program. LEAD is one of the many programs being explored as part of Burien’s new Framework for Strengthening Families.

“We appreciate MIDD funds being directed to the city of Burien. We know there has been staff work to design a program specific to Burien,” said Burien Councilmember Krystal Marx. “I look forward to having a council discussion and potential approval for this program in Burien.”

The LEAD budget also includes $4 million for Seattle in 2019-2020. The City of Seattle’s 2018 budget included $1.75 million in LEAD in Seattle, which currently provides wrap-around case management for about 250 new referrals each year, as well as continuing services for past referrals.

“Most leaders in our region see clearly that we can't jail and punish our way out of the issues caused by addiction, the drug economy, mental illness and extreme poverty,” said Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association.

“We can't afford that approach and it doesn't work.  However, it's not enough to understand what we should stop doing,” she said. “We must also commit as a region to a new paradigm that does have the potential to meaningfully address the real public order and public health issues posed when unmet human needs result in law violations.  The proposed expansion of LEAD is a down payment on taking the new paradigm to scale, which is what our communities deserve.”

LEAD was developed with the community to address low-level drug crimes. It was launched in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood in October 2011. It is operational in the West, East, and North precincts. In addition, King County Sheriff’s Deputies assigned to Metro routes across Seattle also refer people to LEAD.

LEAD diverts low-level drug offenders into community-based treatment and support services – including housing, healthcare, job training, treatment and mental health support – instead of processing them through the traditional criminal justice system.

Referrals can come from law enforcement or concerned individuals.

An evaluation by researchers at the University of Washington in 2015 showed that LEAD significantly reduced recidivism. People in LEAD were 58 percent less likely than people in the control group to be arrested.

Collaborators include the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office, the King County Executive, the Mayor’s Office, The Washington State Department of Corrections, The Defender Association, the ACLU of Washington, and community members.

Relevant links

Quotes

For most people seeking treatment, we have essentially reached treatment on demand for opiate use disorder. Those who want help can immediately get into detox, or receive outpatient, residential, and medication-assisted care. Our next great challenge is to reach people who are not currently seeking services. With LEAD, we have more opportunities to meet people where they are struggling, and offer the chance of a better life.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

The answer to drug addiction isn’t found in a courtroom or jail cell but instead through a system of community-based care. The LEAD program has convinced me that our tax dollars are better spent helping people with addiction rather than punishing them.

Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney

We appreciate MIDD funds being directed to the city of Burien. We know there has been staff work to design a program specific to Burien. I look forward to having a council discussion and potential approval for this program in Burien.

Krystal Marx, Burien City Council

Expanding the LEAD program to Burien will give our Deputies more options when patrolling our streets. Many of the low level drug users our Deputies encounter are homeless and simply need help. Hauling them to jail for a low level drug crime only helps to keep them in the cycle of despair….referring them to LEAD gives them hope. In turn, the program allows us to reduce crime related to the drug trade.

Mitzi Johanknecht, King County Sheriff

Most leaders in our region see clearly that we can't jail and punish our way out of the issues caused by addiction, the drug economy, mental illness and extreme poverty. We can't afford that approach and it doesn't work.  However, it's not enough to understand what we should stop doing. We must also commit as a region to a new paradigm that does have the potential to meaningfully address the real public order and public health issues posed when unmet human needs result in law violations.  The proposed expansion of LEAD is a down payment on taking the new paradigm to scale, which is what our communities deserve.

Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association. 

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

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