Dutchess County adds new mental health program to treat those at risk

The City of Poughkeepsie Police Department is now part of the LEAD program, supplementing their outreach offered through the BEAT program that has been in place for quite some time.

POUGHKEEPSIE -The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH) has partnered with People USA and the City of Poughkeepsie Police to provide a community-based care and outreach pilot program to those who may not utilize conventional methods for help with behavioral issues.  The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program was rolled out in Dutchess County on February 1st, with 21 referrals submitted by law enforcement, resulting in 10 individuals committing to participate in the program that provides access to the higher level of care they need.

LEAD is an evidence-based street outreach program designed to reach individuals with unmet behavioral health needs who have not connected with traditional health and human services and often wind up in a criminal justice system cycle through a variety of violations such as drug use, public intoxication, or nuisance calls. Many of these individuals are homeless and have been, for a variety of reasons, reluctant to utilize traditional health and human services, such as emergency shelter housing, addiction treatment, temporary benefit assistance, or other services.

The main goals of LEAD include:

  • Reorient government response to public safety, disorders, and health-related social problems;
  • Improve community safety and public health through evidence-based, harm-reduction interventions;
  • Reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system for low-level, non-violent offenses;
  • Decrease racial disparities within the criminal justice system; and
  • Strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the community.

Betsy Manzi, DBCH’s LEAD Project Manager said, “Our team is so thrilled with the progress the LEAD program has made since the launch. We are confident the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program will have a profound impact on Dutchess County. Utilizing unconventional methods to help those who refuse traditional behavioral health services will benefit not only those enrolled in the program but the County community as a whole. We appreciate the dedication of law enforcement, mental health providers, and community agencies that have come together to put the LEAD initiative in motion.”

To be eligible for LEAD, one must be a resident of Dutchess County and be referred by a law enforcement officer. Participating law enforcement agencies take part in additional mental health and harm reduction training and have the discretion, at the point of contact, to divert individuals to the LEAD program, rather than arrest or ticket them. Currently, referrals are being solely accepted by the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, however, the program management sees LEAD opening for other municipalities in the future.

Individuals in the program are connected to case managers who meet them “where they are” to build rapport and trust as they help complete the intake process, including an assessment and support plan.  Case managers assist them in overcoming obstacles that may have prevented them from getting help previously, and they are assigned to a limited number of cases to be able to maintain continued contact and care.

In addition to the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, PeopleUSA, and DBCH, several County Government agencies have collaborated to create the LEAD program, including the following:

  • Department of Community and Family Services;
  • Office of Probation and Community Corrections;
  • Public Defender’s Office; and
  • District Attorney’s office

This pilot program is funded by dollars Dutchess County received as the first installment in the Opioid Manufacturers Settlement which must be used to support the treatment of Opioid or Substance Use Disorders and/or Mental health conditions through evidence-based, evidence-informed, or promising programs or strategies.