Long Beach was part of the first pilot program to divert drug addicts and homeless people straight from the streets to social services instead of going to jail – and now the city attorney’s office has $900,000 to help. expand the program over the next three years.
The money, from the Justice Department, is the largest grant that office has ever received, said City Attorney Doug Haubert.
The program is called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD. This involves law enforcement connecting people directly to social services instead of being charged with crimes or going to jail. During the LEAD pilot program which started at the end of 2017 and ended last year, the main people involved were drug addicts or alcoholics. But the program has also helped people with mental health issues or facing homelessness.
The Long Beach pilot was based along Long Beach Boulevard, Haubert said. The new grant will allow it to expand to other parts of the city.
“LEAD should not replace Qualify of Life teams, or MET, or other LB Health Department outreach efforts – it should be in addition to those successful efforts,” Haubert said in an email.
The funding, he added, will go to the city attorney’s office, the police department, one or more yet-to-be-determined social service providers, and an assessment.
LEAD’s expansion is the next step in an ongoing diversion program his office has promoted over the years, Haubert said. He mentioned a program called PAD – Priority Access Diversion – which takes place before and after cases are filed in court.
In this program, the individual has already been arrested and has been identified as a candidate for diversion either by the municipal jail mental health assessor or by court officers. It started as an alternative sentencing program – in which people voluntarily accepted court-ordered treatment – before becoming a diversionary process that precedes a court appearance.
Haubert also has a social worker on staff to assist with diversion and assessment.
The bulk of the grant, which will be spread over three years, will go to frontline efforts to get people to the services they need. The police are often called into situations where the individual concerned would be better served (and more cheaply) by social services than going to jail and court. LEAD gives them an option.
Technology will play a role in helping find the services people need, Haubert added.
“The City Attorney’s Office recently developed an iPhone app (in beta testing right now) with LBPD and Laserfiche,” he said, “to help officers who need to connect or reconnect people. with social services.
“LEAD tries to move the diversion effort to the earliest point – the point of contact between the police and the person in need of assistance,” Haubert added. “Since we already do this work in other forms, we can do it, and I hope our program will become a model for others.”
City Council is expected to approve the grant acceptance on Tuesday, April 19. The next step, Haubert said, is to meet with police and health services, as well as others involved, to develop a plan of action.