As a health and safety strategy, LEAD takes all forms of harm seriously – systemic, individual, and collective. The LEAD model recognizes the harms caused to communities by the disruptive or dangerous conduct that can stem from unmanaged behavioral illness; it recognizes the harms inflicted by the criminal legal system; and it recognizes the harms imposed by inequitable access to resources. By cultivating readiness to elicit the powerful realities of cultivating readiness to elicit, compel, or negotiate change, LEAD stakeholders work together to reduce those harms.
Seat belts, unleaded gas, vaccines, carbon monoxide detectors, sex education, speed limits – all of these are examples of harm reduction. Harm reduction is an evidence-based approach that seeks to recognize and reduce problematic or unlawful conduct that can stem from unmet mental health needs, substance use, trauma, and extreme poverty. Harm reduction recognizes that people engaged in problematic drug use may not be willing or able to stop their use, that not all drug use is chaotic or harmful, and that people who use drugs should have full access to the same health and safety interventions as people who do not.
The LEAD model holds harm reduction at the center of its work: in case management, in developing eligibility, and in making decisions for policies and practices all along the continuum of systems change. LEAD-style case management takes a harm reduction approach. Although it is impossible to reduce all harm, it is important to reduce harm wherever we can.