BurlCo Sheriff’s Department launching school program

The Sheriff’s Department is launching a L.E.A.D (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) education program.

Release Courtesy of Burlington County:

Burlington County Sheriff’s Officers are headed back to school.

The Sheriff’s Department is launching a L.E.A.D (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) education program in partnership with the Burlington County Municipal Alliance Program and expects to begin teaching students in local schools this fall.

L.E.A.D offers evidenced-based curriculum for kindergarten up to 12th grade about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, along with anti-bullying and violence programs. The program was created in 2014 as an alternative to traditional D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) classes taught by police officers to elementary school students for decades.

While covering similar subjects as the traditional D.A.R.E. program, officers have described L.E.A.D. as more interactive with students and teachers, and it has an on-the-streets component for officers as well.

“We’re very excited to launch this new initiative to help educate Burlington County children about the dangers drugs, alcohol and tobacco can pose to their health and their futures,” said Burlington County Sheriff Anthony Basantis. “This program will also bring our officers into schools and classrooms and facilitate interactions with the students and help build bonds of trust between students and law enforcement.”

A total of six Sheriff’s officers are trained as L.E.A.D. officers and will teach the programs in various local schools this fall. The officers are Sgt. John Zell, Sgt. Kenneth Windstein, Officer John Williamson, Officer Georgeann Shelton, Officer Kenneth Davis and Officer Jared Lynch.

“It’s been over a decade since our department was teaching kids how to remain substance-free. Bringing an education program like this back was one of my biggest goals,” Basantis added.

Schools interested in hosting L.E.A.D. classes can contact Burlington County Municipal Alliance Coordinator Jennifer Wright at 609-265-5538 or jlwright@co.burlington.nj.us.

In addition to the new L.E.A.D. program, the Sheriff’s Department also heads up the Burlington County Hope One mobile outreach unit with the Burlington County Human Services and Health Department and staff from Virtua, Maryville and Deborah Heart and Lung Center. The unit regularly goes into county communities to help link residents with recovery specialists and treatment facilities and also trains people on how to administer overdose antidotes, known as Narcan.

In 2021 so far, the Hope One unit has interacted with more than 1,200 people and helped 22 enter treatment while providing treatment resources to another 200. The unit has also distributed more than 190 Narcan kits and assisted more than 120 people obtain photo IDs.

“Hope One has become an incredible resource in Burlington County and we expect our L.E.A.D. program can have the same kind of impact,” Sheriff Basantis said. “This program is long overdue. We’re providing treatment and services to battling addiction with Hope One and now we’re educating children about the dangers of drugs early in their lives as a prevention tool.”