Special Projects Fund

Project Title

Addressing Public Safety Through Public Health: Bringing Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) to Buffalo

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

October 1, 2019


Western NY





Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is an evidence-based, harm-reduction oriented program designed to reduce low-level arrests and recidivism while promoting better health outcomes.

Instead of making an arrest for certain criminal offenses (such as low-level drug charges), police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys work together to divert individuals directly to a case manager. Rather than entering the maze of the criminal justice system, the individual receives intensive case management and targeted social services, with greater coordination among systems of care. Research finds that LEAD reduces recidivism by 58% and preliminary program data indicate it improves the health of people struggling at the intersection of poverty, drug use, and mental health problems. With NYHealth support, community organizations in Albany and on Staten Island collaborated with government agencies, policymakers, private funders, and other stakeholders to launch successful LEAD programs. To further replicate this successful program, NYHealth awarded a grant in 2019 to the Partnership for the Public Good (PPG) to pilot a LEAD program in Buffalo and help mainstream a public health and community-oriented approach to public safety.

Under this grant, PPG supported a pilot of LEAD in Buffalo where, despite the Buffalo Police Department’s community policing initiatives, more than 35% of its arrests are still for low-level charges. PPG supported the current Buffalo/Erie County LEAD working group, helping it to build its capacity and recruit additional allies among policymakers and community leaders. Community-based organizations participating in the working group provided expertise and strategy on the design of the Buffalo LEAD pilot, engaged other community-based organizations, provided resident education, and conducted public messaging to build support. In addition, PPG engaged the Katal Center to provide technical assistance to the working group and offered expertise based on its work to replicate LEAD on Staten Island. PPG produced a policy brief on how LEAD is different from existing programs because of its pre-arrest and harm-reduction approach, as well as its impact on public health, public safety, and reduction of incarceration rates. A toolkit on implementing LEAD in Buffalo was developed to help other stakeholders successfully implement the citywide program and ensure long-term sustainability. Finally, PPG organized educational convenings, roundtables, and workshops for policymakers, service providers, community organizations, residents, and law enforcement/justice system officials to promote LEAD as a promising public health solution and alternative to the criminal justice system.

See the policy brief: “Why Buffalo Needs Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): Reducing Arrests And Providing Alternatives To Incarceration