Phase One of Albany's LEAD Program Launched

City and county officials gathered at the Center for Law and Justice to mark the historic launch of the first phase of Albany’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, otherwise known as LEAD. Karen Tararache has more from outside of the center.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Just like the seasons do, inevitably, a time for change has come.

That's the belief and promise of city and county officials who are collaborating with Albany Medical Center to lead the capital into a new era of law enforcement that will result in treatment instead of an arrest.

"I think that we've come through an evolution in this country where we thought that the way to deal with drug issues and mental health issues was to punish people, put them in jail and use that system to try to change behaviors, and we know that that isn't working," Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said.

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, will give Albany police officers the power to choose what path an offender of a low-level crime will take.

"Instead of the police using their discretion to put people in prisoner jail or arrest, they will actually use their discretion to send people to a case manager," Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Dr. Alice Green explained.

In its first phase, about 30 individuals will end up at the Catholic Charities in Albany, where one case manager will offer treatment through various social services.

"Issues like substance abuse and mental health that are predominantly impacting poor communities in our region can begin to get addressed in a comprehensive way," Center for Health Systems Transformation Executive Director Dr. George Clifford said.

A grant offering district funding through Medicaid has community leaders hopeful that Albany will see the rate of recidivism drop and perhaps even avoid further tragedies from occurring, like the death of Donald Dontay Ivy last year.

"It's hard to look back and see if that would have changed things, but every time we do something, we do look at things like that horrible tragedy and think of things we can do to make things like that not occur," Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox said.

Dr. Green quoted a famous song by Sam Cooke: "It's been a long, long time coming, but I know a change is going to come."

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