City Will Be Second in the Nation to Pilot Innovative Program
The Santa Fe City Council has unanimously approved a program that is designed to break the cycle of arrest and addiction by diverting some drug offenders into treatment. The city will implement a pre-booking diversion pilot program, otherwise known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), by early 2014. The move came as a result of recommendations from the Santa Fe LEAD Task Force, which has been working for more than nine-months on the issue.
“I am truly grateful to the LEAD Task Force for all their hard work to address the root cause of one of our biggest issues in this community,” said City of Santa Fe Mayor David Coss. “We know now that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, but we can invest in smarter solutions. We need to treat this disease and not just its symptoms in order to build a healthier, safer Santa Fe.”
LEAD identifies low-level opiate (pills and heroin) drug offenders for whom probable cause exists for an arrest and redirects them from jail and prosecution by immediately providing linkages to treatment and social supports including harm reduction and intensive case management. When the program is implemented, the city of Santa Fe will become second in the nation to implement this new model; Seattle was the first to implement in 2011.
“Our city and our families are wrestling with addiction, overdose, costly incarceration and property crimes. But our current approach to break the cycle of addiction and arrest is not working,” stated Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance and co-chair of the LEAD Santa Fe Task Force. “It is time to invest in better options by treating drug misuse as a health issue not a criminal one. The LEAD Santa Fe project allows us to focus on goals we all agree on: protecting our kids, enhancing public safety, and preventing and treating addiction.”
After a nine months of studying the issue, and engaging stakeholders and the community, the LEAD Santa Fe Task Force found that the current approach - arresting and incarcerating people for small amounts of opiates without access to long-term treatment and social supports - only moves a relatively small fraction of offenders off the streets, for brief periods of time, and at a significantly higher cost than non-criminal justice system interventions. It diverts increasingly limited law enforcement resources from more serious crimes. A cost benefit analysis conducted by the Santa Fe Community Foundation and in partnership with the LEAD Santa Fe Task Force shows that we are spending close to $1.5 million per year across the law enforcement, jail, judicial, and medical systems arresting, incarcerating, and charging people possessing heroin, pills and paraphernalia; once established, a LEAD program could cost the City half of what it is spending today.
The Santa Fe Police Department has said that property crimes in the city are directly related to an increase in the problematic use of opiates, including heroin and opiate-based pills. The New Mexico Department of Health reports that the state has the highest drug-induced death rate in the nation. Drug induced deaths in Santa Fe County, between 2007-2011, were at 24.3 per 100,000 equal to the state rate and up from 18.1 between 2005-2009. In New Mexico, drug overdose deaths have now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death.