Program offering treatment option for low-level drug offenders s - KPTV - FOX 12

Program offering treatment option for low-level drug offenders showing signs of success

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A new approach to dealing with drug offenses in downtown Portland is opening doors to drug treatment.

The LEAD Program, which stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, is a partnership between the Portland Police Bureau and Multnomah County. The program allows patrol officers to offer low-level drug offenders a path to treatment instead of a trip to jail.

"It's definitely more compassionate, and hopefully, it's more effective," said Deborah Kafoury, Chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

The program is modeled after a similar one in King County, which showed those who completed the program were 60 percent less likely to be re-arrested.

In its early stages, the LEAD program is showing signs of success in Portland as well.

"We've been able to help several people get into treatment, whether it's for mental health or substance use disorder. We've been able to get people into primary care health services," said Karen Kern, Director of Substance Use Disorder Services at Central City Concern, which is partnering with the county.

Officer David Sanders, who patrols downtown and Old Town on his bike, said word of the program and its potential is starting to spread at street level.

"We want these to be ongoing conversations we have with people. You know, one day they might not be interested in doing the program and maybe the next day they might have reached that point where, hey they're open to it and they want to try something different," said Sanders.

According to the county, 38 people are currently enrolled in the LEAD program.

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