Thank you for honoring the budget you signed, Mayor Durkan!
Thank you for honoring the budget you signed, Mayor Durkan! Nate Gowdy

After months of feet dragging, Mayor Jenny Durkan has announced that she will fully fund Seattle's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program as outlined in the Seattle City Council's 2020 budget that Durkan signed back on November 25, 2019.

Up until now, LEAD program managers did not know when, or if, the program would receive the funding allocated in the budget.

LEAD is an arrest diversion program that uses high-intensity case management to keep people out of the criminal justice system and to instead get them the help they need. LEAD, started in 2011, is still growing. It operates on a referral system, where law enforcement partners and community members can recommend people to become part of the program. Currently, LEAD has more referrals than it can keep up with and requires money promised in the budget to keep up and, eventually, expand city-wide, according to LEAD case managers.

According to reports by Erica Barnett, Durkan reneged on the original contract that allocated $6.2 million for LEAD in 2020. Instead, LEAD would only get the $2.6 million Durkan had outlined in her proposed budget, made before the city council's changes, according to a contract proposal sent to LEAD by the Housing Services Department (HSD). Then, once an additional study by consulting firm Bennett Midland was finalized, LEAD would have received more money.

LEAD, however, was left in the dark about when they would sign a contract, get the $2.6 million, and get the rest of the money promised to the program in the 2020 budget, a Stranger report found.

Now, after mounting public pressure and confusion, plus letters from the city council and various community organizations urging the mayor to fund the program, Durkan and the city have agreed to fund the program in full.

"Understanding adjustments will be made in the contract later this year," a spokesperson from the mayor's office wrote in a statement, "HSD is working to finalize its $6.2 million contract and send it to LEAD within the next two weeks. As LEAD scales its program in 2020, the city will continue working with them on updated outcomes and an overall consideration of caseload levels."

One of those updates will come in May, when the Bennett Midland report will be finalized, according to the mayor's office.