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Program Meant To Divert People From Jail Expands In First Year

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A pre-arrest diversion program that launched in downtown Cincinnati last summer has now expanded to Norwood and Colerain Township.

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is headed by the Addiction Response Coalition and funded by a $500,000 federal Justice Department grant. Officers are trained to connect low-level offenders with a treatment case manager instead of taking them to jail.

Forty-seven people have participated in the program since it began last July. Program administrator Meagan Gosney says most participants are social contact referrals.

"A social contact referral is for individuals that officers may encounter, that the officers know that that individual needs help, but they don't want to wait for them to do something bad or commit an offense in order to get them the help that they need," Gosney said. 

Of the 47 total referrals, 40 were social contact. So far, all seven direct diversions have come through the Cincinnati Police Department, which is using LEAD in the Central Business Section Downtown and in District 1, which includes Mt. Adams, Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton, Queensgate and the West End.

Gosney says the $500,000 federal grant expires in the fall, but she's optimistic their renewal application will be approved.

Hamilton County Office of Reentry Director Trina Jackson says they hope to expand the program in the second year. One option is to get a report of recent arrests that were eligible for diversion.

"If we can do that, we can target those individuals — identify them, target them — and see if they're interested in receiving services from the LEAD initiative," Jackson says.

The program could expand to other jurisdictions in the county, but Jackson says they don't want to spread themselves too thin. Jackson says they're also considering allowing social contact referrals from anyone in the community.

Five offenses are eligible for arrest diversions:

  • Misdemeanor theft or unauthorized use of property
  • Drug paraphernalia/drug abuse instruments
  • Criminal trespass
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Criminal damaging

Data from the first 11 months shows 87% of participants identified homelessness or housing instability as an immediate need; 39% identified mental health as an immediate need; and 35% identified addiction or substances use as an immediate need.
Learn more about the first year of LEAD below: 

LEAD Symposium May 20, 2021 by WVXU News on Scribd