Projects: Bridging the Justice-Health Divide: Furthering Innovation Through Information Sharing

Bridging the Justice-Health Divide, an expansion of the DC Forensic Health Project, uses data from several Washington, DC agencies to provide government and community-based organizations with the information they need to gauge rates of mental health problems among the people arrested and improve the effectiveness and reach of mental health services.

With support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, this project combines data from six Washington, DC criminal justice and public health agencies using an innovative data matching and encryption technique to determine rates of mental illness, treatment engagement, and Medicaid enrollment for people arrested in the district. This strategy capitalizes on DC’s early adoption of the Affordable Care Act to design a model for increasing Medicaid enrollment for this vulnerable population that can be replicated nationally. This study involves a wide range of partnerships including the DC Department of Behavioral Health, Washington DC Department of Health Care Finance, DC Metropolitan Police Department, Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, DC Department of Corrections, and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

The project will:

  • Create a multi-agency database to profile rates of mental health disorders, service engagement, and Medicaid enrollment;
  • Support DC agencies in efforts to use data to identify this population and guide decision making; and
  • Provide practical guidance to a national audience of practitioners, focusing on the potential for similar approaches to maximize the impact of healthcare reform for justice involved populations.

Why This Work Matters 
Criminal justice system involvement often correlates with a range of health and social problems including substance use and mental illness. However, most criminal justice institutions lack both the tools needed to identify these kinds of problems and the resources needed to deal with them. As a result, many people pass through the jail, the courts, or community supervision agencies without receiving necessary support. This project aims to help justice and health agencies use data to improve service provision and collaborate across systems.



This project was supported by Award No. 2013-DP-BX-K012 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this web page are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

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Former Director, Substance Use and Mental Health Program