Expanding Deflection and Pre-Arrest Diversion

close up of doctor holding hands with a patient

Police contact and arrest can be a result of untreated or undertreated behavioral health conditions, but avoiding arrest and diverting individuals with behavioral health conditions to effective treatment is a much preferred policy option. However, evidence is needed to identify the most effective forms of diversion, for whom and under what conditions. The Wilson Center's work in this area seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of promising pre-arrest diversion programs and recommend policies in line with those findings.

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Evaluation

A key component of the Wilson Center's work in Pre-Arrest Diversion is evaluation of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) in North Carolina. LEAD is a community-based, pre-arrest  diversion program that connects people who use drugs and are at risk of arrest for low-level unlawful conduct with support services such as social and medical services, behavioral health treatment, and harm reduction resources. Police officers can use their discretion to refer eligible individuals to LEAD either as an alternative to arrest and prosecution or simply because the officer believes an individual could benefit from the program.

Our research team, in consultation with North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, conducted an evaluation of four LEAD sites in North Carolina to determine the program’s effectiveness in reducing criminal justice involvement and increasing service utilization among program enrollees as well as investigating issues of equity in the program's application.

Read the findings, full report, and recommendations below: