How LEAD Works

In a LEAD® program, police officers exercise discretionary authority based on a diversion protocol 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

Coordination & Collaboration

Prosecutors and police officers work closely with case managers to ensure that all contacts with LEAD® participants going forward, including new criminal prosecutions for other offenses, are coordinated with the service plan for the participant to maximize the opportunity to achieve behavioral change. Collaboration among these groups to address issues as they arise facilitates stronger relationships between these systems and creates a solid foundation for positive outcomes for clients and stakeholders alike. City and County participation in program planning is formalized through a resolution. The collaboration for implementation is formalized through an MOU.

Intensive Case Management

Intensive case management is a core principle of the LEAD program. Intensive case management provides increased support and assistance in all aspects of the LEAD participant’s life. Participants engaged in problematic drug use require a more holistic approach to case management. They not only need access to medication assisted treatment and other drug treatment options, they need access to food, housing, legal advocacy, job training, etc. Overall, they need increased support in accessing these services. A case manager meets the LEAD participant where they are at in their wants and needs for assistance.

Community Benefits

LEAD® holds considerable promise as a way for law enforcement and prosecutors to help communities respond to public order issues stemming from unaddressed public health and human services needs — addiction, untreated mental illness, homelessness, and extreme poverty — through a public health framework that reduces reliance on the formal criminal justice system.

Program goals are to:

  • Reduce criminal recidivism
  • Reduce jail costs
  • Increase public safety
  • Improve the lives of individuals who engage in services

See our Impact Dashboard for LEAD Santa Fe Eval outcomes.

Visit for LEAD Seattle outcomes.

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.