Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion/Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD) Program


About LEAD

LEAD is a pre-booking diversion program that aims to improve public health and to end the cycle of recidivism. Instead of being charged and booked following an arrest, the arresting officer identifies the arrestee as a potential participant for the diversion program and subsequently connects them with a case manager. This case manager then provides a holistic approach to connecting the individual with resources such as housing and substance use treatment services or enrolling the participant in vocational training courses. The main principle of LEAD is collaborative partnerships between local law enforcement, district attorney's offices, sheriffs, treatment providers, and other community stakeholders. This partnership will be a requirement of all LEAD grants.

Effective FY 2017-18, the Office of Behavioral Health will receive $2,300,000 annually for three years to contract for up to four pilot programs. These programs will be evaluated for effectiveness in order to request additional funding thereafter.

The following communities receive up to $575,000 per year, funded through the Long Bill from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, to operate LEAD as a pilot program for a three-year term:

  • City of Alamosa
  • Denver County
  • City of Longmont
  • Pueblo County

LEAD Program Description
Updated January 2024

Screenshot of LEAD Program fact sheet

Frequently Asked Questions


►  What is Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)?
In LEAD programs, police officers exercise discretionary authority at point of contact to divert individuals to a community-based, harm-reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs. In lieu of the normal criminal justice system cycle -- booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration -- individuals are instead referred into a trauma-informed intensive case-management program where the individual receives a wide range of support services, often including transitional and permanent housing and/or drug treatment. Prosecutors and police officers work closely with case managers to ensure that all contacts with LEAD participants going forward, including new criminal prosecutions for other offenses, are coordinated with the service plan for the participant to maximize the opportunity to achieve behavioral change.

►  What are the guiding principles of LEAD?
The LEAD Pilot Programs are consistent with the following principles and foundational approaches, implemented to address and reflect the priorities of the community in which the programs exist:

  • Provide intensive case management services and individually tailored intervention plans that acts as a blueprint for assisting LEAD participants.
  • Prioritize temporary and permanent housing that includes individualized supportive services, without preconditions of drug or alcohol treatment or abstinence from drugs or alcohol.
  • Employ human and social service resources in coordination with law enforcement in a manner that improves individual outcomes, community safety and promotes community wellness.
  • Participation in LEAD services is voluntary throughout the duration of the program and does not require abstinence from drug or alcohol use as a condition of continued participation.
  • The LEAD Pilot Program is to be guided by harm reduction principles.
  • The LEAD Pilot Program is systems change-oriented - a new role for law enforcement reflecting an integrated approach with collaborative partners and service providers.
  • The LEAD Pilot Program reflects a shift from the punitive approach for community safety to a psycho-social, public health approach.

►  Is LEAD unique to Colorado?
No. LEAD was developed and launched in 2011 in Seattle, Washington and has since been replicated by several jurisdictions throughout the United States.

►  How did LEAD get started in Colorado?
During the 2017 legislative session, the Drug Policy Alliance convened the Colorado LEAD Coalition, which included the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials (CALPHO) and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. The coalition successfully lobbied the Joint Budget Committee for an allocation from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund in the 2017-2018 state budget to fund LEAD pilot programs in Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Human Services' (CDHS) Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) is the agency responsible for oversight of the LEAD pilots in the State and in late 2017, released a Request for Applications to implement the programs. Communities applied for the awards and were chosen by a committee convened by CDHS. The following communities receive up to $575,000 per year, funded through the Long Bill from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, to operate LEAD as a pilot program for a three-year term: City of Alamosa, Denver County, City of Longmont and Pueblo County.

►  What communities in Colorado have LEAD programs?
The following communities were awarded funding to pilot the LEAD program:

  1. The City of Alamosa (San Luis Valley LEAD)
  2. The City and County of Denver
  3. The City of Longmont
  4. Pueblo County

►  Is there additional funding for LEAD programs? Or how do I get funding for LEAD?
At this time the LEAD funding has been allocated and there is no additional funding available. You may reach out to the Manager of Co-responder Services to indicate your interest in implementing a program.

►  Will LEAD be evaluated for effectiveness?
Yes, a research team from the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs and Department of Sociology will conduct a rigorous assessment and evaluation of the effectiveness of LEAD.

►  What support do the pilot programs receive, to ensure they are maintaining the LEAD model?
In addition to the funding to start the LEAD Program, OBH has also contracted with the National LEAD Support Bureau to provide strategic guidance and technical assistance to the sites.
The Bureau is led and staffed by members of a team of public health and justice system veterans who designed the original Seattle LEAD program, and others who have now launched LEAD in other jurisdictions. The Bureau also draws on the expertise of prosecutors, police, case managers and community public safety leaders who are now using LEAD on the ground, and are willing to share lessons learned with their peers around the country.

►  Where can I find more general information about LEAD?
The National LEAD Support Bureau website and the King County LEAD Program website both have a wealth of information.

►  Is participation in LEAD voluntary?
Yes. The LEAD Program relies upon the understanding that participation is voluntary and that individuals entering the program may be at different stages of readiness and may progress at their own pace without fear of being terminated from the program or prosecuted. They will not be denied services if they continue substance use or involvement in criminal activity. As a result, housing services do not require participant's abstinence from substance use to determine housing eligibility or as a condition of remaining housed.

►  What is the referral process for LEAD?
There are two types of referrals that law enforcement can make into LEAD:

Arrest Diversion - These are individuals for whom police officers have probable cause to charge with a crime, but instead offer LEAD participation. Officers run a criminal background check to make sure the person does not meet any of the exclusionary criteria. The charges for which someone may be diverted and exclusionary criteria, vary slightly between the 4 pilot programs.

Social Contact - These are individuals with whom police officers have had previous contact and believe they could benefit from participation in LEAD.

Once someone has been referred to LEAD, the officer contacts a LEAD case manager who will respond on location and screen the individual. This "warm handoff" is also a time when the case manager will assess and address the individuals immediate needs.

The LEAD referral will then go to the District Attorney's Office for review and approval. Potential LEAD participants must complete an intake within a certain amount of time to be fully enrolled.

►  Who has oversight of the LEAD programs?
Each program has two committees that provide different levels of oversight.

  1. Policy Committee -The Key Stakeholder Policy Committee is made up of high-level, decision making representatives from each of the key local stakeholder groups. Through signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), the participants in this group are committed to the implementation and policy oversight of the LEAD Program. Included in this group are representatives from law enforcement, district attorney, public defender, public health and social services agencies and the case management service provider.
  2. Operational Work Group - The Operational Work Group is an integral feature of the LEAD model to ensure collaboration and communication among the Key Stakeholder Policy Committee, project manager, case managers, law enforcement officers, social and health care service providers, prosecutors, community members, and others who have an investment in the program. The Operational Work Group meets regularly to address system barriers, assess and improve progress, and establish collaborative case planning approaches.
  3. The Office of Behavioral Health has oversight of the contracts and funding of the individual LEAD programs.

►  I would like to work for a LEAD program, who should I contact?
Each program is in charge of their own hiring process, so it is best to contact the programs directly to inquire about employment opportunities.


LEAD Program Contacts

If you are interested in more information about how to enroll in LEAD or would like to get help for a loved one, contact the LEAD program in your community. The best ways to contact each program are listed below:

San Luis Valley LEAD
Carey Deacon, Program Manager,carey@restorativeprograms.org

Denver LEAD
Tien Tong, Program Manager, Viet-Tien.Tong@denver.gov.org

Longmont LEAD
Emily Van Doren, Manager, Public Safety Diversion Programs, emily.vandoren@longmontcolorado.gov

Pueblo County LEAD
Christine Zeitvogel, Project Manager, Pueblo County, LEAD@pueblocounty.us