Federal money will help divert low-level drug crimes  

BELLINGHAM — The Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will receive a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program.

“LEAD holds considerable promise as an alternative to jail for low-level drug crimes,” said Eric J. Richey, Whatcom County prosecuting attorney. “Bringing stakeholders together in a collaborative manner will best serve those in need of services and at the same time help communities respond to public order issues.”

LEAD is not a human services program, but a public safety and order program that uses human resources tools, Richey said. The goal is to improve community health and safety by reducing criminal justice system involvement in this way and coordinating effectively with law enforcement using community input.

LEAD is supported by a diverse set of partners, including Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws, the county Public Defender’s Office and Health Department, Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, Bellingham Police Chief David Doll, Whatcom County Council member Barry Buchanan, Chuckanut Health Foundation executive director Heather Flaherty and SeaMar Community Health Centers.

“We all believe the LEAD program will have a meaningful and sustainable impact on Whatcom County participants and communities,” said Richey.

For more details, contact Richey at 360-410-6365.