Seattle is treating drug addicts and alcoholics differently these days in the hopes that it will help these people get their lives back together. The city is using a program called LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), which takes addicts off the streets instead of locking them up, providing them with the most basic of needs. The program has been around for four years now, and is currently helping 203 participants. LEAD brings together law enforcement, prosecutors and harm-reduction experts to use their resources to help the individual. Participants of LEAD are given a place to live, help finding a job, money for food, and health care. The goal is to get them off the streets and to provide them with basic human needs and the opportunity to care for themselves so they don’t turn to crimes of homelessness to survive.
A Different Kind of Program
The LEAD program sounds like many others throughout the country, but there is one major difference. Participants of LEAD are not required to go to treatment or to abstain from their substances in order to be in the program. The idea is that if the city continues to support a person in the LEAD program, even if they are abusing drugs or alcohol, the person will eventually come around and get their life back together. By not requiring abstinence, LEAD organizers say they are not discouraging treatment for addiction. Part of helping a person get on their feet and become a contributing member of society means they will eventually take control of their addiction. LEAD provides treatment resources to individuals that are ready to take that step, but it does not require it. Taking such an approach to deal with a city’s law-breaking drug addicts and alcoholics has been controversial, but several other cities across the country are considering similar programs. LEAD costs $1.5 million a year, and has been supported by both the city of Seattle and private foundations. Advocates say LEAD can save the city millions of dollars in law enforcement and the justice system, and that most importantly, the program is working and people are getting off the streets and leaving their lives of crime. Add your thoughts and comments below and follow us on Facebook!