UPDATED: McGinn to Request $1.7 Million To Expand LEAD Throughout Downtown Core

As Seattle Weekly first reported back in July, Mayor McGinn plans to include a substantial chunk of change in his 2014 budget request to expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program throughout the downtown core. The idea was one of many intended to help improve homelessness and street disorder downtown birthed out of the Center City Initiative, and today McGinn will make it official – announcing his intention to request $1.7 million to expand the program at an 11 am press conference. (Originally the mayor had planned to request $1.5 million, but that figure has since been adjusted.)

According to McGinn spokesperson Aaron Pickus, the mayor will also seek funding to make permanent the addition of two new park rangers that were added during the summer to patrol downtown parks and Cal Anderson Park, additional staff funding for the Center City Initiative, and contingency money for the installation of a Portland Loo in Pioneer Square (should the deal with Urban Visions to foot the bill fall through for some reason).

While impulse will be for people to link today’s announcement with last Friday’s tragic stabbing, officials in the mayor’s office confirm it’s been planned for some time. Seattle Weekly first learned of the press conference last Thursday. Originally it was scheduled for Monday, but scheduling conflicts bumped it back to today, according to sources within the mayor’s office.

What exactly is LEAD? Here’s how Seattle Weekly described the program and its expansion back in July (Note: the $1.5 million is now $1.7 million):

LEAD is already used in Belltown, its cross-hairs on drug and prostitution offenders. Although tweaks may be made to allow for the handling of other street-disorder-related offenses, officials believe the program has been successful enough in getting habitual offenders into services and out of the low-level criminal loop to warrant its expansion. According to Lisa Daugaard—who helped orchestrate LEAD’s rollout in Belltown via nearly $1 million in private grants, and who has also been involved in planning the program’s downtown expansion—the $1.5 million will go toward staffing and the purchase of wrap-around services like drug and alcohol treatment, mental-health services, and housing for as many chronic offenders as possible. She says the figure was decided upon “based on the approximate cost of providing services so far for the volume of people we’ve served in Belltown, and then expanding by that ratio for the rest of downtown.”

“Anecdotally, we know there are folks [in Belltown] receiving services through LEAD that are not out re-offending,” Seattle Police West Precinct Captain Jim Dermody told Seattle Weekly at the time.

“The City is one of many partners on this thing, which is really the only way it works, because we’re all in it together,” says Pickus of the Center City Initiative.

“We’re following through on what we said we were going to do,” he says of today’s announcement and the budget request to expand LEAD.

McGinn will unveil his entire 2014 budget Monday.

UPDATE: At the press conference this morning Mayor McGinn provided more detail on what Center City Initiative-related projects he’d like to fund in his 2014 budget. In addition to the items listed above, McGinn will include requests for: $150,000 to increase hours at day and hygiene centers, $112,440 to extend Winter Response Shelters year-round, $500,000 for three Seattle Police officers dedicated to supporting Parks Rangers in downtown parks as well as Cal Anderson Park, and $776,000 to increase Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) staffing.

Calling the downtown street disorder issues that these funds are intended to address “controversial and long-standing,” McGinn said this morning that the main intent of the Center City Initiative is to “find common ground around how do we compassionately help those in needs and have effective enforcement of existing rules for those who are not willing to change their behavior.”

Speaking to the proposed LEAD expansion, Lisa Daugaard of the Public Defender Association, who joined McGinn at today’s press conference, said that, “We know that the justice system is more expensive than a public health approach,” while also being clear to stress that the consensus coming out of the Center City Initiative is not simply “to use social services instead of law enforcement.” According to Daugard, the idea is to team law enforcement and social services in a way that has the greatest positive impact for the most people possible. Through the Center City Initiative Daugaard says the goal is to “actually change [people’s] behavior rather than engaging in rhetorical stances or gimmicks.”

Reporters on hand were quick to point out that the accomplishments of LEAD in Belltown, at this point, can only be measured with anecdotal evidence from neighborhood stakeholders - not hard data. While McGinn said evaluations of the program will continue, he insisted the City has seen enough to justify a LEAD expansion.

“It’s promising,” McGinn said of LEAD’s impact so far in Belltown. “I think the ethics of what we’ve seen so far would say we should not be denying this approach to those in need throughout downtown.”

Speaking on behalf of the Downtown Seattle Association, CEO Kate Joncas, who was also on hand for today’s announcement, said: “Change is in the wind. We’re going to do things differently.”

According to Joncas, the big step forward will be in focusing on individual people and their needs, “with clear consequences.”

“That is what’s going to make a difference downtown,” she said.

Here’s the full press release from the McGinn’s office:

SEATTLE – The Center City Initiative has brought together residents, business owners, social service providers, advocates and multiple agency representatives to develop a balanced, compassionate and effective approach to helping those in need, increasing the sense of safety and security downtown, and improving enforcement of existing laws.

Mayor Mike McGinn is today announcing new investments in the proposed 2014 budget to support recommendations brought forth by the participants in the Center City Roundtable. The investments include $1.7 million for expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program which connects low-level offenders with human services, $150,000 to increase hours at day and hygiene centers, $112,440 to extend Winter Response Shelters year-round, $500,000 for three Seattle Police officers dedicated to supporting Parks Rangers in downtown parks as well as Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill, $188,000 to make two recently hired Parks Rangers permanent, and $776,000 to increase Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) staffing.

“These are significant investments that will make downtown Seattle safer and more welcoming for everyone,” said Downtown Seattle Association CEO Kate Joncas. “Improving public safety in downtown requires new resources and strategies as well as close collaboration between law enforcement and human service programs.”

“The Center City Initiative approach is a paradigm shift about how to achieve public safety and public order,” said Lisa Daugaard of the Public Defender Association. “CCI has embraced using enforcement tools that are fair and appropriate and social service tools when they are more effective, and coordinating those approaches for the first time. LEAD gives police officers more options to address the situation of people whose public behavior is problematic because they are addicted, homeless, mentally ill, underemployed, victims of complex trauma, or a combination. The goal is to address those underlying issues so the person can live in a way that is healthier for themselves and poses fewer problems for downtown neighborhoods. We’ve learned through experience that jail and prosecution rarely achieve that outcome for people facing these problems.”

The $1.7 million investment in LEAD will expand the innovative public safety program to cover all of downtown. Additional city support for LEAD grew directly out of the mayor’s Center City Roundtable, which brings together residents, businesses, service providers and government agencies to identify specific actions to help make downtown streets safe and inviting. LEAD, a pilot program first started as a public safety effort in Belltown, diverts non-violent drug offenders to wrap-around services instead of perpetuating the failed enforcement-only model of the War on Drugs.

“The investments are made possible because leaders from throughout our downtown community worked hard to find common ground on helping those in need and fairly enforcing existing laws to make our downtown safer and more inviting for all. With their support, and this funding, we can now begin to fully implement the Center City Initiative,” said McGinn.

First begun in 2010, LEAD is a model program of interagency cooperation among multiple stakeholders including the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office, the King County Executive, the Seattle Mayor’s Office, the Seattle City Council, the King County Council, the Washington State Department of Corrections, The Defender Association, the ACLU of Washington, and community members.

The mayor’s proposed budget also includes investments in human services outside the umbrella of LEAD, including day and hygiene centers which help persons experiencing homelessness move toward stable housing. An investment of $150,000 will increase hours at facilities that provide services such as case management, healthcare, housing, employment assistance and access to showers, toilets and laundry.

The mayor will also increase shelter capacity by extending Winter Response Shelters year-round, an investment of $112,440. Additional shelter beds will provide safe places to sleep and a path toward stability for people who are homeless. Maintaining year-round shelter minimizes overhead costs by increasing capacity at existing facilities. Up to 30 women will have year-round access to emergency shelter every night through the summer months, and up to 80 men and women will have access each night to the “Behind the Red Door” shelter at City Hall during the summer months.

The mayor’s Proposed Budget also adds $776,000 to increase Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) staffing and adds a second contracted mental health coordinator to assist with CIT caseload and follow-up. CIT officers are specially trained in recognizing and communicating with individuals who may suffer from mental illness and work to divert individuals from the justice system by helping them find services elsewhere in the community. The two officers who are currently on loan to the CIT team will return to their duties as 911 responders, and the two officers who are hired and trained specifically for CIT service will have overtime resources available to them as part of the $776,000 investment.

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