Hope: Alamosa LEADS the way
ALAMOSA — Although not easy, working with the new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is worthwhile, LEAD staff told Alamosa city councilors during a recent update on the program, which began this spring.
Aimed at providing services to defendants to reduce repeat offenses and help them break out of the criminal justice cycle, LEAD has already assisted 15 participants, according to LEAD Program Manager Carey Deacon.
Some of the participants are enrolling in treatment programs and some are participating in therapy sessions with SLV Behavioral Health Group. In helping their clients, LEAD staff has utilized resources such as Tu Casa, La Puente, the food bank, Rainbow’s End and Re-Threads and social assistance programs such as LEAP, food stamps and Medicaid. They have also worked with educational resources such as the Delta Center in Monte Vista and medical resources such as Valley-Wide Health Systems and SLV Health.
Sometimes clients need very basic services such as new glasses or a driver’s license, Deacon explained.
Case managers will help the clients with these services as well as accompanying them to court or other appointments and checking in with them on a daily basis.
Deacon said it is important for the clients to see staff as nonjudgmental and supportive.
“My case managers are wonderful, very hands on, willing to go out in the community, willing to talk to them, willing to have hard conversations,” Deacon said.
She said the program is already seeing successes with participants. She added that all of the partners have been very supportive and helpful. This includes judges and the probation department she said.
“Things are going very, very well, smoother than I anticipated,” said Clarissa Woodworth, programs operations director for the Center for Restorative Programs, which is administering the program in cooperation with the City of Alamosa and other partners.
Woodworth said the program has strong partnerships including the city and law enforcement.
She said she has heard from clients that they can’t believe someone is really there for them like this program or that it seems too good to be true.
Deacon added that clients appreciate that staff are not pushing them into something they might not yet be ready for but are there for them when they are ready.
“It is not easy,” Woodworth said. “But it still feels really positive.”
“From a staff perspective, we still remain very, very excited about this,” said Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks. Sometimes the first success, she said, is just getting someone into the program. The goal is to reduce recidivism and keep people out of jail, breaking the cycle of repeat offenses and incarceration, she added.
Deputy District Attorney Jordan Welch said aside from cases they might have already had before they entered the LEAD program, most defendants were not picking up any new cases other than traffic cases since enrolling in LEAD. He said even though the program has only been going a few months, he can already see its positive effect. In fact he urged Conejos County Judge Kimberly Cortez to allow a defendant a PR (personal recognizance) bond so he could enter the LEAD program and get the help he needed. When the judge allowed it, the LEAD staff literally followed the defendant out of the courtroom to get him started in the program, Welch said.
Alamosa City Councilor Kristina Daniel said she appreciated the work the staff is doing in the LEAD program and the connections they were making for people. “Believing in people in this way means a lot,” she said. “I think our community is going to benefit immensely from this.”
Alamosa City Councilor Liz Hensley said this idea originated out of a Colorado Municipal League session she and other councilors attended, and seeing it come to fruition is exciting.
“It might not be perfect, but just think how many people it might help,” she said.
Alamosa City Councilman Charles Griego said this was a program that was really needed here. “I have always said jails are not the answer,” he said.
Brooks said the next expansion would be to Monte Vista, if the city council there is agreeable. The goal of the program was always to expand it throughout the San Luis Valley, she said.
Mayor Ty Coleman said for those 15 participants in LEAD now, it is providing hope and help and making a difference.