Supportive Release Center Marks One-Year Anniversary; Model Replicated in Albuquerque

(Chicago) – In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a “one-stop” program recently opened to assist people newly released from jail in accessing a place to stay, food, medicine, substance use treatment, and other social supports.

The Albuquerque program—known as the Bernalillo County (NM) Resource Re-Entry Center—came about after local officials teamed up with the National Association of Counties and TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), which has been devising and implementing collaborative linkages between justice systems and community-based services since 1976.

One year ago in Chicago, TASC and partners launched the forerunner to the Albuquerque program.

Located just blocks from the Cook County Jail, TASC’s Supportive Release Center (SRC) offers a brief overnight stay and linkages to community-based services for men leaving the jail who are struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders, and/or physical health challenges, and who have no immediate place to go. The SRC serves as a guiding resource for voluntary participants who face vulnerabilities following their release from jail.

TASC care coordinators assist participants in accessing healthcare services, health insurance, identification, and other supports such as housing, food, job training, and legal aid resources. Connections to needed services are vital for individuals to become stabilized in the community, improve their health, and lessen their likelihood of returning to jail.

As an Urban Labs Innovation Challenge winner, and with funding from an array of private foundations and donors, the SRC represents a collaboration between TASC, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and an array of partners to offer a “softer landing” for persons being released from the jail. Alongside TASC’s program administration and care coordination services, Heartland Health Alliance (HAH) provides intensive case management for individuals who require longer-term support, such as housing or treatment for serious mental illness. The UChicago Urban Labs is evaluating the SRC to ensure the efficacy of the program and lay the groundwork for improvements, expansion, and future replication.

Since the SRC’s ribbon-cutting on July 26, 2017, more than 600 men leaving the Cook County Jail have received services at the SRC.

“The hours immediately following release from jail are critical, especially for people who face vulnerabilities in terms of behavioral health, related medical issues, and housing,” said Alicia Osborne, director of operations for TASC. “It’s a privilege not only to be able to offer a place that eases that transition, but also to see that what we’re doing in Cook County can be beneficial to other counties facing these same challenges.”

Offering an overnight stay and linkage to services in the community, TASC’s Supportive Release Center welcomes men who are leaving the Cook County Jail and have no immediate place to go.

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2015 Urban Labs Innovation Challenge Winners: TASC, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Heartland Alliance Earn Grant for Supportive Release Center

(Chicago) – The University of Chicago announced the winners of the Urban Labs 2015 Innovation Challenge grants on October 12, including a $1M grant to TASC, the Heartland Alliance, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to support people with mental illness as they are released from the Cook County Jail.

Timothy Knowles, the Pritzker Director of Urban Labs, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the announcement during a Chicago Ideas Week event, which included a panel discussion with WomenOnCall.org founder and President Margot Pritzker, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and host Cheryl Corley of NPR.

The 2015 Urban Labs Innovation Challenge focused on the areas of health, poverty, and energy and the environment. Advisory committees comprising civic leaders, practitioners, funders, and academic experts selected the grant winners from a pool of more than 100 applicants.

The grant will enable the launch of a Supportive Release Center to help individuals with mental illness transition to services in their communities following their release from the Cook County Jail. It also will include rigorous evaluation—conducted by the Health Lab—to empirically examine outcomes and better inform practitioners and policymakers about its effectiveness, cost-efficiency, and potential scalability in the long run.

“We are honored to partner with the University of Chicago Urban Labs, Heartland Alliance, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to develop solutions to the issues faced by people with mental illness who are leaving the jail,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “This will help us create a safe, supportive environment to facilitate access to care. The project also will be closely evaluated, using a random controlled research design, so that it has the potential to become an evidence-based practice that could be replicated nationwide.”

The Urban Labs’ collaborative approach recognizes that many long-term challenges in cities are related, and require unified responses. Public-private partnerships are central to the approach of the project, and in fact Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois already has made a $50,000 commitment toward the Supportive Release Center.

The Cook County Jail admits approximately 100,000 men and women annually. Among the average daily population of 9,000, 20 to 30 percent are estimated to have a mental illness.

The project builds upon other collaborative strategies to improve access to health care for people leaving the jail. These aligned and reinforcing efforts include the Justice and Health Initiative funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the Justice Advisory Council, and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, as well as the planning and pilot project funded by the Michael Reese Health Trust, and the service network innovation collaborative funded by the Polk Bros. Foundation.

For additional coverage of the announcement, see articles in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Inno, DNAChicago, UChicagoNews, and social media posts at #InnovationChallenge.

Researchers to Study Impact of Affordable Care Act on Public Safety; Cook County Key Research Site

(New York)Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LAJF) has announced a grant to a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School to study the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) impact on public safety.

The project will examine innovative programs focused on providing formerly incarcerated individuals with access to medical, behavioral health, and social services under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Our aim is to identify possible links that may help to explain whether improved access to health care can contribute to a reduction in crime,” said Haiden Huskamp, a professor in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Huskamp is leading the study along with Colleen Barry, an associate professor and associate chair for Research and Practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

An inventory will be produced as part of the overall Hopkins/Harvard study and will be available at the end of the calendar year. The research will include an in-depth study of a unique partnership in Illinois between the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), with the location being inside the Cook County Jail where thousands of individuals who are exiting the jail have been signed up for Medicaid coverage.

People involved in the criminal justice system often have extensive health care needs. More than two thirds of jail detainees meet clinical criteria for substance dependence or abuse, and 14.5 percent of men and 31 percent of women entering jail have a serious mental illness. Yet, studies find that the overwhelming majority of people leaving jail – 80-90 percent – do not have health insurance. New health care options under the ACA will allow many of these individuals to receive coverage.

“The goal of this project is to learn everything we can about how the ACA is being used nationally to make our communities safer and to improve public health,” said LJAF Vice President of Criminal Justice Anne Milgram.

Dr. Barry emphasized the importance of conducting in-depth studies of earlier innovator programs that are currently enrolling individuals exiting jails and prisons in Medicaid under the ACA, and developing ways to connect them to mental health, addiction, and other medical and social services in their communities.

“Early programs like the Cook County partnership have the potential to improve population health and may lower crime, so it is essential to learn lessons from their experiences and to share insights with jurisdictions in other areas of the country considering initiating similar efforts,” said Dr. Barry.

Research findings will be published in a peer-reviewed journal within the next year.