LJAF Awards $4.1 Million for 'Frequent Utilizer' Initiative

LJAF Awards $4.1 Million for 'Frequent Utilizer' Initiative

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has announced grants totaling $4.1 million to help local communities and researchers study new crisis response models that better address the challenge posed by people with mental illness and addiction who cycle between jail and hospitals.

The grants mark a significant expansion of LJAF's data-driven justice efforts, which aim to improve society's response to "frequent utilizers" — people who bounce between the justice system and emergency health and social service systems. They include $1.6 million to launch three pilot programs that will test new methods of coordination between police, hospitals, and social services; $2.1 million to fund evaluations of promising intervention programs; and $375,000 to the National Association of Counties to organize a growing network of county leaders focused on the issue. The goal of the programs is to help emergency responders recognize frequent utilizers and divert them from jail and into treatment programs that can address their root issues.

To be conducted in Middlesex County, Massachusetts; Long Beach, California; and Johnson County, Iowa, the projects will enable local agencies to link the data they collect on frequent utilizers through a data management system built by OpenLattice. In each project, the jurisdictions will hire data scientists to collect and analyze information such as 911 calls, EMS transports, emergency department visits, and shelter records for patterns that can help emergency responders identify people in crisis and connect them to the help they need. In addition to building capacity for linking and analyzing data, the projects will help jurisdictions develop promising interventions, including training for law enforcement, medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid addiction, and housing assistance for individuals who are chronically homeless.

In addition, LJAF is supporting three large-scale evaluations of interventions that have shown promise, with the goal of building the evidence base with respect to what actually works to address frequent utilizers' complex needs. Grant recipients include the University of Rochester Medical Center, which will evaluate Minnesota's replication of the successful Rochester Forensic Assertive Community Treatment program; the City of Long Beach, which will look at an expanded version of forensic community treatment aimed at addressing mental illnesses commonly found among people in the criminal justice system; and MDRC, which will study the possibility of conducting a multi-location evaluation of a combined housing first/shared medical appointments program.

"We have an incredible opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable members of our communities," said LJAF president Kelli Rhee. "The potential is enormous. Not only can the pilot programs help connect frequent utilizers to the treatment they need, increasing the chance they'll remain out of jail in the future, but the programs can save taxpayer dollars and critical emergency responder time."

(Photo credit: bluecinema)