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

LEAD is a diversion initiative that provides a non-punitive, community-based system of response to problematic or unlawful behavior that is rooted in substance use disorder. LEAD invests in an individual’s well-being and is motivated by a desire to reduce reliance on the criminal legal system to address the unmet behavioral health needs. In a LEAD initiative, police officers exercise discretionary authority to divert individuals suspected of low-level, non-violent crimes to a community-based, harm-reduction intervention in lieu of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. LEAD aims to reduce the harms of drug policies that criminalize substance use disorder by allowing police officers to divert instead of arrest when responding to behaviors and situations that do not pose a significant threat to public safety. LEAD is a systems-change effort that includes a direct service component.

Pathways into LEAD

There are three main pathways into LEAD—Arrest Diversion, Social Contact Referral, and Community Referral. With Arrest Diversion, individuals are diverted to LEAD instead of being arrested, prosecuted, or incarcerated in response to an alleged crime. With the Social Contact Referral, law enforcement officers can refer individuals to LEAD any time. Community members can refer to LEAD without involving law enforcement or members of the legal system at any time with Community Referrals.

Who Does LEAD Serve?

LEAD aims to establish a new system of response and care for people who are not served by office-based, appointment-based, time-delimited care. Typically, these are people who live with unmanaged behavioral health needs and often lifelong experiences of punishment and marginalization. They are often repeatedly in contact with the criminal legal system for low-level offenses or issues of public disorder associated with their untreated behavioral health condition.

Program Impact

LEAD is a community-based diversion initiative that addresses substance use disorder as a public health issue instead of a criminal issue. LEAD improves public safety and community health. LEAD has been shown to reduce criminal recidivism, reduce use of emergency medical services, and improve quality of life of those engaged in the program. LEAD supports collaboration across systems and thus, reduces the stigma associated with substance use disorder, strengthens community-police relations and improves lives.

San Juan County

The San Juan County LEAD program is a one of a kind opportunity that is funded by the DOJ. It allows community stakeholders to partner as a committee to assist individuals who suffer with addiction and mental health issues. The program assists individuals to gain access to a case manager who will assist them in attaining resources to improve their life and to prevent them from entering into the judicial system, while decreasing the financial impact that substance use and mental health can have in a small area like ours.

Taos County

Taos’s Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD) Program launched in June 2022 with community referrals to help people with substance use disorder (SUD) and criminal risk access resources. Underlying poverty, discrimination, and childhood trauma are most often involved in these cases. More than 70% of drug and alcohol-related arrests are repeat offenders. Taos LEAD intensive case management provides a promising alternative to arrest.

Bernalillo County

LEAD is a public safety program that reduces the criminalization of people who suffer from addiction, mental health issues, homelessness or have other unaddressed human service needs.

Santa Fe County

LEAD-Santa Fe County fosters collaboration between public health, criminal justice and community service providers to improve the response to mental and behavioral health issues exhibited by an individual who may cause harm to themselves and/or the community. The program offers an alternative: an integrated and multi-disciplinary team approach that is research-based, health-oriented and harm reduction focused with a commitment to Housing First principles. Diversions and social law enforcement referrals are generated from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

Doña Ana County

The Dona Ana County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) partnership was initiated in July of 2018 with support from the Dona Ana County Health and Human Services Department (HHSD). As the facilitator of the local Stepping Up Initiative, the HHSD is the backbone organization for the LEAD partnership.

Lea County

Connecting our community with care and compassion to restore and empower our community members who need it


There are currently 6 LEAD programs in New Mexico. Programs participate in a comprehensive cross-site evaluation administered through the University of New Mexico. Each site works with a local evaluator to foster continuous improvement and strategic thinking through real time data on referrals, client engagement, stakeholder collaboration, and client outcomes. Program managers and staff come together virtually each month to share program updates and engage in group learning about program planning, implementation and evaluation.


Enrolled LEAD Participants