Frederick County Health Dept., Other Agencies Launched LEAD Program

It diverts low level offenders away from the criminal justice system.

Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Health Department has joined with other agencies to launch the LEAD program. The Law Enforcement Assistance Diversion program takes low level offenders out of the criminal justice system, and puts them in touch with peer case management. These individuals who may be dealing with addictions, homelessness or mental health problems can be directed into programs  which could help them get their lives on track.

“After approximately four years of research into diversion programs and basic practices, we are excited to launch the program and provide case management services utilizing a grant awarded to the health department from the Maryland Department of Health,” says Andrea  Walker, Director of Behavioral Health Services at the Frederick County Health Department. “Preliminary Research into raw data from 2019 indicates that 90% of citations, and 50% of arrests by FPD {Frederick Police Department} would have been eligible for LEAD services.”

“Our officers are routinely called up on to deal with non-violence low-level offenses committed by individuals struggling with issues such as addiction, homelessness and behavioral health problems,” says Frederick Police Chief Jason Lando, in a statement. “Arresting and prosecuting these people has proven time after time to be an ineffective way of deterring criminal activity and does nothing to help these individuals get their lives on track. LEAD is not a free pass but rather provides an alternative to the criminal justice system in these cases. The goal of LEAD is to address the underlying cause of the problem, which will ultimately result in better outcomes for the individual, the police and the community as a whole.”

In addition to the Health Department, the other participating agencies are the Frederick Police Department, the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Public Defender, the County Division of Parole and Probation, and the City of Frederick and Office of the Mayor. “The City of Frederick is excited for the launch of LEAD and its confident this program will reduce crime and recidivism, while providing the necessary treatment for substance use and mental illness in our community,” says Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor, in a statement.   “The City of Frederick is proud to be a part of this partnership that acknowledges substance use and behavioral and mental health calls for service may better be handled through diversion opportunities first.  Helping people avoid the stigma of a criminal record for low key offenses should work in the best interests of these individuals, the police the court system and our community.”

By Kevin McManus