OLYMPIA – Thurston County's new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Pilot program, or LEAD, is about six months into operation, and already it has diverted more than 100 people from the law and justice system toward services that may lead to more positive outcomes for the individuals and wider community.
Law enforcement officers who interact with someone they think may have an improved outcome through a case management option can easily make a referral to LEAD. This referral diverts people from a traditional path to justice and toward services that can help people implement life-long changes and keep them as contributing members to the community.
"I'm grateful people in our community in dire need of an act of humanity are getting this opportunity," said Patrick O'Connor, Director of the Thurston County Office of Public Defense. "Law Enforcement's commitment to this program is changing lives without traditional justice system involvement. Thurston County Public Defense supports these and other progressive interventions where our community members struggling with significant behavioral health challenges receive the help and support they need without an arrest and prosecution."
On Tuesday, February 8, 2022 the Thurston County Board of Commissioners (BoCC) approved a second contract with the Washington State Health Care Authority for the expansion of LEAD services, for a total maximum amount of $1,113,152, through June 30, 2023. The LEAD Pilot program, as it exists now, began Tuesday, January 26, 2021, when the BoCC approved the signing of an initial contract of $925,593 with the Washington Health Care Authority to fund a pilot of LEAD in Thurston County.
"The Prosecuting Attorney's Office has always been interested in alternative ways to address behavior, and the LEAD program fits right in with that model," said Wayne Graham, a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office (PAO). "Our office - with Public Health and Social Services and the Sheriff's Office - actively sought out the grant from the Washington Health Care Authority we're working under."
The program was initially open to Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, and the Sheriff's Office to allow time for the program to evolve and grow, but recently more rural jurisdictions like Yelm have become involved. The City of Yelm has partnered with LEAD to set up specific times where case managers will come to Yelm to receive referrals and meet with referred individuals.
"This program is adapted to meet the needs of law enforcement agencies," said Jason Bean-Mortinson, LEAD Program Manager. "We want to have as few barriers as possible to getting people who can benefit from LEAD into the program; law enforcement agencies are super-engaged in the program."
Olympic Health and Recovery Services (OHRS) – a licensed behavioral health agency serving Thurston and Mason Counties – provides the direct case management services to people. The contract approved on February 8 will allow OHRS to continue this important work and expand services throughout the county.
If you're interested in learning more about LEAD, you can watch the February 9, 2022 Coffee With A Commissioner program, where Commission Vice-chair Tye Menser spoke with Jason Bean-Mortinson with the Thurston Mason Behavioral Health Administrative Services Organization and Wayne Graham with the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office about the program.
"I am proud of what our community has been able to accomplish through LEAD," said Commission-chair Carolina Mejia. "This program has changed people's lives, and will continue to change lives. It has the potential to become a primary method of promoting community safety."