NC District Attorney on LEAD: 'First and foremost this is about public safety'
May 16, 2017
WILMINGTON, NC- Eight agencies gathered Wednesday morning to sign a joint Memorandum of Understanding to implement the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program in the Wilmington area to combat the opioid epidemic.
Officers trained in the program, which was launched in Seattle in 2011, will be able to target drug users and ask them what they need to stop.
Should the person agree to take part in the program will redirect them from being incarcerated to a LEAD case worker. That case worker will then work with the participant to get the best form of treatment tailored to their specific need.
“What we want to do is connect people with care they need to have a successful health outcome,” said Robert Childs, director of NC Harm Reduction Coalition. “Because we know if we don’t connect them with care they may be in and out of the criminal justice system, and also more likely to commit basic crimes of need and poverty. And so we want to be able to connect them with the services they need to have a successful outcome and a healthier community in Wilmington.”
New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said the program, deemed a new way to deal with an old problem, is first and foremost about public safety.
“This is not about going light on crime. Dealers go to prison, for as long as possible,” David said. “And as long as I’m District Attorney, that’s going to continue. Users first and foremost need treatment. But to be clear, they don’t get a hall pass either… this is also about having to put them in custody to protect themselves or others from harm.”
According to Deputy Chief Mitch Cunningham with the Wilmington Police Department, 14 officers have been trained in the program, and the project will begin June 1.
“We’re not going to solve the problem overnight, it didn’t happen overnight, but I think we’re on the right road,” said Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous.
Agencies involved in the MOU include: Coastal Horizons, TASC, the District Attorney’s Office, the Wilmington Police Department, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, RHA Health Services and the Wilmington Treatment Center.
This program is already operating successfully in Fayetteville and many other locations across the country.
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