What is LEAD®?

LEAD is a public safety program that allows law enforcement officers to redirect persons suspected of involvement in non-violent low level crimes, such as shoplifting, minor theft, possession, and/or possession of paraphernalia, to community-based services instead of jail and prosecution.  LEAD participants begin working immediately with case managers to access harm reduction, treatment and/or social services.

LEAD is NOTa confidential informant program for law enforcement.  Confidential informants cannot be a LEAD client. Law enforcement officers are prohibited from asking LEAD clients for confidential or source information.


What is the purpose of the program?

LEAD holds promise as a way for law enforcement and prosecutors to help communities respond to public order issues stemming from unaddressed conditions such as addiction, mental illness, homelessness, and extreme poverty, through a public health framework that reduces reliance on the criminal justice system. The primary purpose of the program is to reduce crime and change lives.


How does a person get into the LEAD Santa Fe program?

LEAD participants must be referred into the program by a law enforcement officer. An officer may refer an individual for LEAD at the point of an arrest OR they may refer an individual whom they believe is at high risk of arrest for low level drug activity. Once referred into the program, there is no requirement or expectation for further contact with the police. A person cannot self-refer into the program, nor can a family member or friend refer a person into the program.


How does a person graduate from the program?

There are no pre-established or firm guidelines for what constitutes program completion. The Case Coordinating Committee has the power to terminate participants from services based on pre-determined criteria at the discretion of the District Attorney's Office. The goal is to maintain participants in services until they are capable of and prepared to transition out.


What services are offered as part of the program?

Each client has a case manager who coordinates care as needed. Key components of LEAD are intensive case management, individual intervention plans, and comprehensive services including housing, treatment, education, and job development, within a harm reduction framework.

 Services may include but are not limited to:

  • Intensive case management
  • Emergency, transitional and long-term supportive housing
  • Substance abuse assessment and counseling
  • Mental health assessment and counseling
  • Psychiatric services
  • Suboxone/Methadone treatment
  • Harm reduction services
  • Employment assistance
  • Psychosocial rehabilitation (e.g. skills training, wellness)
  • Sustenance care (e.g. food, clothing, transportation, cell phone)
  • Legal Aid
  • Community referrals

What is expected of a client?

LEAD uses a harm reduction philosophy. Participants are not be penalized or denied services if they do not achieve abstinence or follow a prescribed treatment or service engagement plan. The goal of the program is to reduce the harm of problematic drug activity to individuals and the surrounding community. However, while no prescribed formula for engagement is required of a LEAD client, clients are accountable for their behavior towards program staff and the community. LEAD participants who incur additional criminal charges while participating in LEAD are not necessarily discharged out of the program. Termination from services is based on pre-determined criteria at the discretion of the District Attorney's Office.


Is the program effective?

Evaluation of LEAD in Seattle, showed that people in LEAD were 58% less likely than people not in LEAD to be arrested.  Additioanlly,  LEAD participants were significantly more likely to obtain housing, employment and legitimate income after their LEAD referral compared to the month prior to their referral.

Additionally, the evaluation of LEAD in Seattle showed statistically significant reductions for the LEAD group compared to the control group on average yearly criminal justice and legal system utilization:

  • Jail Bookings: LEAD participants had 1.4 fewer jail bookings
  • Jail Days: LEAD group spent 39 fewer days in jail

  • Incarceration: LEAD group had 87% lower odds of at least 1 prison incarceration
  • Costs associated with Criminal Justice and Legal System Utilization: From pre- to post-evaluation entry, LEAD participants showed substantial cost reductions (-$2100), whereas control participants showed cost increases (+$5961).

The University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research is conducting the outcome evaluation of LEAD Santa Fe. The evaluation will replicate the criminal recidivism outcome evaluation conducted by LEAD Seattle. In addition, LEAD Santa Fe will evaluate the psychosocial outcomes in LEAD clients and the cost/benefit of the program on the criminal justice and public health systems in Santa Fe. The evaluation will focus on a 3-year pilot period of June 2014 through June 2017. A Report of Findings will be released in the Spring of 2018.


How much will LEAD cost the City of Santa Fe?

A cost benefit analysis conducted in 2013 of 100 individuals arrested by City of Santa Fe Police for opiate possession or sales revealed a cost of more than $4 million dollars over 3 years (2010-2012) or an average of $42,000 per individual across local and state criminal justice and health systems. In contrast, projected cost of a LEAD client, including intensive treatments and wrap-around services, was estimated at $34,000 per individual over 3 years. This estimate did not include Medicaid coverage.

Long-term Impact

The cost-benefit impact of the LEAD program will be more evident in the long-term as the upfront investment of intensive treatment and support services pays off in reduced recidivism and cost to the current systems over time. Other long-term positive impacts include prevention of drug addiction and related criminal activities, improved wellbeing of individuals, family and community, and positive contribution to earnings and economic productivity through re-integration to society and job market.

Sensitivity Analysis

A 38% target reduction in arrest, incarceration and drug-related ER/hospital recidivism will provide positive economic benefits for the City of Santa Fe over a 10 year time period under the current conservative assumptions. The required reduction in recidivism is lower (22-28%) for the City of SF to break even and spend less on low level drug offenses if the LEAD cost is adjusted for Medicaid coverage of 60-80% for certain medical treatments.

LEAD is intended to move individuals from the chronic “revolving door” of drug-to-incarceration and ER-visits toward long-term sustainable recovery and livelihood.  


LEAD® is a registered trademark held by the Public Defender Association (Seattle) for the Seattle/King County Policy Coordinating Group. Please refer to the LEAD National Support Bureau for more information.