How LEAD started

Watauga County LEAD began in 201?

Our Team.

Identified Problems:

  • Chronic incarceration of individuals due to an underlying issue with substance use, behavioral health, and/ or lack of resources.

  • Escalation of deaths and/or chronic health issues due to opioids and other drugs.

  • Lack of adequate treatment and support for offenders leads to a cycle of criminal activity, incarceration, and/ or early death.

  • Lack of case management, peer support services, and transportation for linkages to appropriate community resources.

  • Barriers to gainful employment and stable housing (key factors in successful recovery from addiction) due to criminal record and incarceration.

What is a diversion?

Clients who come to us through a diversion mean that they initially had contact with a law enforcement officer who could have charged them with a crime. Instead, the officer chose to divert the person into case management instead of the local criminal justice system. If the person agrees with the officer to participate in LEAD, the officer will still file the charge with the District Attorney's Office and the person must report to the LEAD case manager for an intake within two weeks or the officer can choose to retroactively file  criminal charges. 

Watauga Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a trauma-informed, community-oriented approach to addressing the challenges associated with mental health and substance use. LEAD seeks to 

  1. reduce the potential for harm, and 

  2. improve public safety and access to resources by connecting individuals at risk of justice system involvement with services and support.


This approach has proven to save money with demonstrated success in reducing future harmful behavior, as opposed to processing those at risk of involvement through the criminal justice system.

Program Objectives:

  • Offer restorative social services such as case management, peer support, and connection with community resources (SA/MH treatment, Transportation, housing/food/medication assistance, health services, employment/ vocational training/support, etc.)

  • Reduce over-reliance on emergency healthcare through linkage to affordable preventative care.

  • Support collaborative education, prevention, and intervention efforts involving opioid use and other substance use disorders, for all ages.

  • Utilize peer support and case management to assist and encourage justice-involved individuals to enter systems of care, remove barriers to recovery, and stay engaged in recovery.

  • Bolster Community resources by advocation and providing outreach.




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