PUEBLO – On Saturday afternoon, law enforcement and community agencies gathered with neighbors in Pueblo to discuss the “LEAD” program and efforts to combat a problem felt nationwide: the opioid crisis.
“LEAD,” which stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, is a pilot program offering case management to low-level drug users rather than giving them jail time.
The pilot program is basically at the halfway point.
It started in September of 2018 and will conclude next year.
It focuses on harm reduction, meaning they want to help folks struggling with addiction now, so the community doesn’t suffer later.
It has also fostered a relationship between law enforcement agencies and treatment clinics.
“It’s yet another tool on the belt of a police officer to deal with people who are addicted to, at this point, opioid drugs,” said Pueblo Police Chief Troy Davenport.
They want to keep pueblo safe by tackling addiction.
“It’s a compassionate approach to try and get them off of drugs and keep them from a life of crime,” said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner.
“That’s a benefit to the individual, it’s a benefit to the community.”
Folks who are found to illegally possess less than two grams of opioids, and who have not caused direct harm to anyone else, will have access to food, shelter, and mental health treatments among other resources.
“When you’re trying to deal with an addiction and not having clothes, and not being cold and it’s raining outside, the last thing you want to think about is ‘do I want to be sick and withdraw when I have nothing else?'” said Rob Archuleta, executive director for program development and public relations at Crossroads’ Turning Points, Inc.
“It’s multi-faceted. Somebody might need clothing. Somebody might need housing,” Davenport explained.
“[The program is] just a way to sort of stabilize this person so they can make better decisions.”
The Colorado Department of Human Services is funding the program through 2020, with Pueblo receiving up to $575,000 per year.
But stakeholders hope it will lead to a permanent solution.
“Anytime you can get treatment for people that are not feeling well, how can that be a bad thing?” Davenport added.
Community leaders will review criteria for the “LEAD” program between late summer and early fall of this year.
Once the pilot program is done, it will go into the legislature, where lawmakers will decide if they want to carry on with it permanently or make any changes moving forward.