Breaking Down Barriers: Diversion program thrives on cooperation, embraces skeptics

Breaking Down Barriers: Diversion program thrives on cooperation, embraces skeptics

From the Las Vegas Optic

ALAMOSA, Colo. — Addiction is not a crime, yet many battling addiction end up with a criminal record because their addiction pushed them to break the law. In some cases, they might steal items from a store. In other cases, the crime they’ve committed is merely possessing the drug they’re addicted to.

The people who face this situation oftentimes live on the fringes of society, according to Andrés Guerrero, the manager of the Overdose Prevention Unit for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“A lot of them don’t have insurance, don’t have addresses, don’t have a home,” he said. “And there’s a lot of incarceration, a lot of going in and out of county jails.”

It’s something that city leaders in the southern Colorado town of Alamosa noticed happening in their community, and in 2016, they set out to do something about it. In 2018, city leaders secured a state grant to fund a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD.