LEAD Initiative Logo (image)

LEAD (law enforcement assisted diversion) Initiative

The Hamilton County Justice Center was designed for 840 people, yet each month, 1,300 people often occupy the jail daily. A large percentage of these inmates have been arrested and incarcerated multiple times due to addiction, mental illness, or homelessness.

The Hamilton County LEAD initiative aims to stop the cycle of arrest by diverting low-level criminal offenses from the justice system to an intensive case-management program where individuals receive a wide range of support services. Cincinnati Police Officers in District 1 and the Central Business District utilize their discretion to divert low-level, non-violent male and female offenders who may be driven to offend due to untreated addiction, mental health conditions, homelessness, or poverty into the program.

Hamilton County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a two-year Pilot Program launching in District 1 and the Central Business District in Downtown Cincinnati. The LEAD pilot is based on the first LEAD Pilot Program launched in Seattle, Washington in 2011, as a response to large amount of low-level narcotic related offenses. This model has since been replicated by many other states across the country. Hamilton County LEAD receives support and consultation from the LEAD National Support Bureau to ensure the program is in compliance with the program model and values.

Goals of LEAD

Reorient government’s response to safety, disorder, and health-related problems

Improve public safety and public health through research-based, health-oriented, and harm reduction interventions

Reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system for low-level offenses related to drug use, mental health, and extreme poverty

Undo racial disparities at the front-end of the criminal justice system

Sustain funding for alternative interventions by capturing and reinvesting criminal justice system savings

Strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community

How it Works

The LEAD initiative allows for police officers to utilize their discretion to divert individuals from the cycle of arrest to community based, harm-reduction intervention. In lieu of the criminal justice system cycle—booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration—individuals are instead referred to intensive case management services where the individual receives a wide range of support services.

How does a person get into LEAD?
LEAD participants must be referred to the program by a law enforcement officer in District 1 or Central Business District, either at the point of arrest OR law enforcement can refer individuals identified as being high-risk for committing low level non-violent offenses. These offenses include possession of drug paraphernalia/drug abuse instruments, misdemeanor theft or unauthorized use of property, criminal damaging, criminal trespassing, or disorderly conduct. A person cannot self-refer into the program, nor can a family member or friend refer a person into the program.

What is expected of a participant?
LEAD is based on harm-reduction principles. Participants are not denied services if they do not achieve abstinence. Participants work at their own pace to achieve their goals. As goals are met, involvement in the program may become less. Participants may be removed from the program if they commit a violent offense or threaten staff.

Our Staff

Hamilton County LEAD staff consists of men and women with extensive case management experience in supporting individuals impacted by poverty, addiction, mental illness, criminal convictions, and chronic homelessness.

Meagan Gosney
Program Manager
Email: meagan.gosney@hamilton-co.org

Callie Ward
Senior Case Manager
Email: callie.ward@hamilton-co.org

Kelsey Richardson
Screening and Outreach Coordinator
Email: kelsey.richardson@hamilton-co.org

How to Get Involved

County-Led Community Leadership Team (CLT) comprises of community members, service providers, activists, and personally affected individuals that ensure the community has a voice in the implementation and operations of LEAD. CLT conducts community outreach, educational forums, and distribute literature so that the community is kept up to date on LEAD activities. CLT meets once a month. If you are interested in learning more information about CLT, please email kelsey.richardson@hamilton-co.org.


Key stakeholders include:

  1. Hamilton County Addiction Response Coalition
  2. Hamilton County Administration
  3. Hamilton County Commissioner
  4. Office of the Cincinnati City Manager
  5. Cincinnati Mayor
  6. Cincinnati City Council
  7. Office of the Solicitor
  8. Cincinnati Police Department
  9. Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office
  10. Ohio Justice and Policy Center
  11. Hamilton County Office of Re-Entry

Multiple service provider agencies and other entities play a crucial role in ensuring quality of services for LEAD participants.

Where to Find Us

The LEAD office is located at 1000 Sycamore St South Building Room 114 Cincinnati, OH 45202. LEAD operates Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and Tuesday and Thursday 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM. LEAD staff can be reached at 513-946-PLAN (7526).