Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program

Representative Adam Smith submitted the following Community Project Funding request for the Public Defender Association.

$1.5 million was successfully included in the House Committee on Appropriations Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations bill.

Each Representative may request funding for up to 15 projects in their community for fiscal year 2023. This does not guarantee the projects will be funded.


"We greatly appreciate Representative Adam Smith's support for LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion/Let Everyone Advance with Dignity). LEAD is an internationally recognized framework for addressing public order and safety issues related to drug use, mental illness and extreme poverty, without unnecessarily relying on prosecution and punishment.  The project would provide more intensive outreach and case management services in Seattle's Chinatown International District, and would bring LEAD services for the first time to Southeast Seattle, one of the most diverse communities in the country. Community leaders in these neighborhoods have been requesting these services for several years, and we're grateful to Representative Smith for responding to this need." - Tiarra Dearbone, Seattle King County LEAD Program Director

“As every corner of the country, including the Ninth District, faces behavioral health and substance use crisis, access to services and treatments remains insufficient. In order to effectively combat this crisis, we must establish strong programs that support the stabilization and recovery of impacted individuals and further public safety needs,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash). “The LEAD program has been a highly successful model to divert low-level offenders and others referred by law enforcement into case management and harm reduction programs that include mental health care, chemical dependency treatment, and other relevant services. The funding I requested will enable LEAD to enhance their vital work in the Chinatown-International District and expand to Southeast Seattle.”


The requested funding will allow the Public Defender Association to intensify LEAD services in the Chinatown-International District by providing a dedicated screening and outreach coordinator and a dedicated case manager and expand LEAD services for the first time to SE Seattle, including Rainier Beach, Columbia City and Mount Baker.
LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion/Let Everyone Advance with Dignity) is an evidence-based, widely supported outreach and case management response to low-level crime related to substance use disorder. LEAD is recognized as a promising practice by the Office of Justice Programs, and is often cited as one of the best-established community-based diversion approaches in the United States. It enjoys widespread support from diverse sectors including law enforcement, civil rights, human services, and community safety leaders.
Many individuals identified for LEAD services in this area need specialized, focused response with (a) language access needs, (b) severe mental illness, and/or (c) legal barriers to public benefits and green cards/work authorization. The particular neighborhoods that are proposed to receive enhanced (Chinatown International District) or initial (Southeast Seattle) LEAD services through community project funding are vulnerable communities dominated by racially diverse small businesses owners who are challenged in recovery from the COVID economic crisis. This funding will provide a community-based public safety response that supports the recovery and stabilization needs of individuals, while meaningfully addressing the public order needs of small businesses.