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Inspira Health and Cumberland County Officials Collaborate on New Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD®) Program

Inspira Health and Cumberland County Officials Collaborate on New Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD®) Program

Jun 22, 2023

The program will provide community-based intervention for low-level criminal offenses, rather than criminal prosecution

Mullica Hill, NJ (June 22, 2023)Inspira Health, the LEAD® National Support Bureau and community leaders recently met for the first time to kick off a new era of collaboration to divert individuals who committed low-level criminal offenses from the criminal justice system to a community-based intervention program. The new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD®) program will be led by Inspira, in consultation with health agencies, community resource organizations and local law enforcement, among other organizations.

The governing body for the LEAD® program, called the Policy Coordinating Group (PCG), met to determine what foundational documents will be needed to further develop the partnerships and workflows once the program becomes operational later in 2023. Additionally, the PCG took the initial steps to begin the hiring process for additional patient navigators and project managers to help with operations.

“This meeting was an important first step toward creating a new path forward for those suffering from addiction or mental illness and connect them with the help they need,” said David Moore, assistant vice president of the Behavioral Health Service Line at Inspira. “The LEAD model takes every opportunity to offer a helping hand prior to the implementation of conflict, consequences, and/or incarceration.”

In a LEAD® program, police officers exercise discretionary authority at point of contact to divert individuals to a community-based, harm-reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs. In lieu of the normal criminal justice system cycle — booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration — individuals are instead referred into a trauma-informed intensive case-management program where the individual receives a wide range of support services, often including transitional and permanent housing and/or drug treatment.

“Although routinely the first to respond, officers are often ill-equipped to adequately handle those whose conduct is fueled by poverty, substance use or mental disorders,” said Michael Gaimari Sr., Chief of Police for Bridgeton, N.J. “The LEAD program arms officers with additional tools and resources, providing alternatives to those in need as opposed to traditional legal recourse. This endeavor gets the community to address these problems as a whole and will hopefully reduce the associated criminal activity and the potential for more serious police-citizen encounters.”

An independent, non-randomized controlled outcome evaluation showed that LEAD® participants are 58% less likely to be arrested after enrollment in the program, compared to a control group that went through "system as usual" criminal justice processing. Additionally, with significant reductions in recidivism, LEAD® is less expensive than the arrest-and-charge system, and participants are significantly more likely to obtain housing, employment, and legitimate income after a LEAD® referral. Bridgeton was chosen for a LEAD® program due to high rates of mental illness and substance use. According to the New Jersey Office of the State Medical Examiner, out of the 21 N.J. counties, Cumberland County ranks second in opioid prescriptions per capita, as well as in law enforcement and EMS Naloxone administrations. The county also ranks fourth for drug deaths and fourth on the Overall Drug Harm Index.

“We are excited that there will be a LEAD site in Cumberland County,” said Jennifer Webb-McRae, Cumberland County prosecutor. “It takes everyone working together to reimagine what public safety looks like in a community. LEAD will be a valuable tool in our toolbox of resources, and both Inspira and the Bridgeton Police Department can count on my support in this very important initiative.”

Topics: Community, Behavioral Health