MONTE VISTA - Team members of the law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) program came before Monte Vista City council with an update about the program. Program manager Carey Deacon along with Monte Vista police officer Ezekiel Sisneros, case manager Holly Snow, and District attorney liaison Scott Dylan shared about the program.
LEAD is a pre-booking, community-based diversion program. It was created to divert those involved in low-level drug offenses away from jail and into case-management and connect them to other supportive services.
“LEAD is law enforcement assisted diversion,” explained Deacon, “The state of Colorado actually had proposed to bring four (LEAD) pilot sites to Colorado to address the opioid epidemic that we have here in Colorado. They started out with four pilot sites back in April 2018.”
Alamosa was one of those four pilot sites, and the other three are in Pueblo, Longmont and Denver. Deacon shared that Alamosa has been the longest running so far. “The city of Alamosa is the one who actually wrote the original grant,” said Deacon adding, “They wrote it with the intention for us to be able to expand our program so we started in Alamosa in April 2018. Then in Feb. 2019 we trained Monte Vista Police and Rio Grande Sheriff departments. Since Feb. 2019 we’ve been working with the police department here in Monte Vista. They’ve been a great addition to our team. They’ve been very proactive in making a lot of referrals.”
Deacon also shared a little background information on how the program works, “It really starts with the officers because they’re on the street they’re coming into contact with this population. It’s all based off officer discretion. When officers are coming into contact with someone they have an option to divert a charge and it would be only one charge. The initial charge that they come into contact with that person they have the decision at that point to either offer them a tool and a resource to get connected to help or take them to jail like they usually would do. The purpose of it is to try and reduce the recidivism ring and that revolving door of people coming in and out of the judicial system.”
After they receive a referral to the LEAD program a case manager like Holly Snow starts working with them. “She’s literally out in the field she will go out where they are. She will find them to take them to court. She takes them to doctor’s appointments, she takes them to get a driver’s license, I mean you name it. There’s so many different things that we’ve done for our participants. She’s really the one who works on the ground with them to make sure they’re getting their needs met so they’re not getting into trouble again,” said Deacon.
“I love my job so much. Yes, it’s hard and the people are tough sometimes, but when you start seeing the results it’s worth it. When you start seeing some of the positive stuff. I had somebody that I hadn’t talked to in a few months just show up today out of the blue, so I think when they’re ready they come,” shared Snow about her job as a case manager for LEAD in Monte Vista.
Twice a month LEAD also has operational workgroup meetings. At these meetings their team comes together with law enforcement to give them updates on all of the referrals they’ve made. They keep them informed of how this person is doing and law enforcement also informs them if they have any information on them.
The LEAD program also has a liaison Scott Dylan in the DA’s office who helps them keep track of the recidivism rates, court dates and other data. Dylan shared some statics with the council, “These stats are based off our active participants and our inactive participants. These are people who have completed our intake but have chosen to either become inactive with our case manager Holly or have remained active.” Dylan shared that right now they have 13 active participants with a total of three arrests since Feb. 2019. One of these participants has two arrests of the total three arrests. “In all we have 11 active participants that have zero arrests after completing their intake. That’s what LEAD’s goal is to end this cycle of recidivism.” They also have two inactive participants who have completed their intake and refused to stay in contact with their case manager. These two inactive participants have a total of three arrests.
Dylan also shared that they have two types of referrals, social referrals and diversion referrals. “Social referrals are when participants get referred to LEAD without having a charge so they weren’t arrested on a drug charge or anything. But they came in contact with a police officer and the police officer decided to make a social referral. These active social referrals actually have our least amounts of arrest,” said Dylan.
Officer Ezekiel Sisneros of the Monte Vista Police Department also shared his perspective as someone in law enforcement saying, “I think it’s been a great program if we can get people onboard. They can see the goals that we’ve made and the strides that we’ve made with people that we’ve contacted or referred. It’s been good.”