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.