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Program to focus on treatment instead of prison »Albuquerque Journal

A used hypodermic needle was thrown into an alley near Central and San Pedro SE . A new program allows the police to bring some suspects to the treatment instead of going to prison. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

A new diversion program where police officers bring low-level suspects to treatment rather than jail, will soon be rolled out in the southeast of Albuquerque.

The police command for that part of the city will be the home of the first program of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD.

The idea is this: instead of filing criminal charges against those who arrest them – for a crime at a low level such as drug possession, shoplifting or prostitution – the police can take them to a detox facility where they have a case manager. meet who can coordinate services such as Medicaid, housing vouchers and alcohol and drug abuse treatments

Unlike other redirection efforts in the 2nd District Court, such as Drug Court, the LEAD program sends people to services before any costs are ever charged. . This allows them to prevent an arrest and a criminal record. Many of the specialized courts of the judicial district are used as a result of the plea and the defendant often gets a criminal record as a result of the case.

"You can not get more upstream than this," said Sam Howarth, the administrator of behavioral health care for Bernalillo County. The program will also allow the police to send people for help after a "social contact," meaning that the person did not run the risk of being arrested but still wanted help.

Similar programs exist in Santa Fe, Seattle and several places in Colorado

Deputy Chief Eric Garcia of the Albuquerque Police said city and district administrators have planned a diversion program for several years that officers can initiate. The department has approached a problem response team in the Southeast Area Command to be the first group of officers that will lead easily accessible criminals to treatment, he said. The team has about six officers.

"We have seen the revolving door, we are arresting someone and they will be back on the streets soon and we have not solved the problem," he said. "Hopefully this is an end to that cycle."

Since the program began in Colorado almost a year ago, more and more officers are sending people to the LEAD program instead of going to jail, said Emily Richardson, co-responder services manager for the Colorado Department of Human Services.

"Officers are not required to make LEAD referrals, it is their discretion," she said. "Being able to get them into a program that hopefully will make a number of changes in the longer term is really the motivation I have seen so far."

In Colorado, the Department of Human Services oversees several LEAD programs, which started last spring. There are active LEAD programs in Alamosa, Longmont and Pueblo. A program is about to launch in Denver

Richardson said that about 50 people in the state are in a LEAD program. Denver opens with four case managers who can handle approximately 80 to 100 participants. Most people in the program are having trouble wasting drugs

In Albuquerque, Garcia said that APD's Crisis Intervention Unit will help prepare the curriculum to train officers in the new program

It is not entirely clear when the program is off the ground

Because of the people who end up in the diversion program, are homeless or have a mental illness, the police will have policy for the program approved by a federal monitor overseeing the police reform efforts of Albuquerque "It could take several months," Garcia said.

Some of the efforts of the police reform called on the department to revive the way officers deal with people with mental illnesses who were too often at the end of violent use. by the police, according to a study by the Ministry of Justice to the department.

Howarth said the province is in the process of hiring the first case manager of the program with the help of a one-time grant. The commission of the province of Bernalillo has approved an annual budget of $ 250,000 in November, which comes from a tax on behavioral disorders, to accept no fewer than three case managers.

They will work at the detox center for metrological evaluation and treatment services, or MATS, and will supervise LEAD participants, according to provincial documents. Howarth estimates that each case manager can oversee about 25 participants.

"It is more humane because it accepts that disorders of the addiction problem are and treat it as such, and secondly it has been shown to reduce criminal activity," said district administrator Maggie Hart Stebbins. "I see it as an advantage for the person involved in the LEAD program … and it leads to less victimization and lower costs for our community."

The plan is to roll out the program in the Southeast area of ​​APD Command. The program later expands to the South Valley, which is patrolled by the deputies from the Sheriff's Office in Bernalillo County and then possibly Downtown, Howarth said.

Suspects are not eligible for the program if they have had convictions in the past 10 years for crimes such as murder, vehicle murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, theft, abduction, sex offenses or a case involving a firearm or lethal weapon.

People found with more than 6 grams of medication; who use drugs for profit, as opposed to supporting their own habit; minors; and those suspected of promoting prostitution or the exploitation of minors will also be excluded from the program.

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