CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A program aimed at offering low-level drug offenders treatment instead of jail time has been deemed successful, years after it began in West Virginia’s most populous county.
Most of those who enter the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program implemented three years ago in Kanawha County are not arrested again, officials in Charleston told WCHS-TV .
As the addiction services director at Prestera Center, which offers mental health services in several counties, Dana Petroff has seen more than 150 offenders go through the program. Nearly three quarters of those who were sent to the program had not been rearrested, she said.
“Six months after referral into our program, we have a 74 percent success rate,” Petroff said.
LEAD is expanding into southern West Virginia and cities north of Charleston, Petroff said. She believes that extension is largely based on the program’s success in and around the city.
“Until we have fewer addicts and less people who are dependent on these opioids, the crisis is going to continue. Crime is going to continue to skyrocket,” Charleston police Chief Steve Cooper said.
Heath Johnson was 22-years-old when a foot injury led him to become addicted to prescription pills, he said. A Saint Albans police officer offered him treatment through the LEAD program.
“The place that I was at in my life, if I got sober and I’m doing what I am now, then it’s possible for anybody,” Johnson said. “They just have to have those doors and those avenues opened up.”
Information from: WCHS-TV, http://www.wchstv.com