Case Study: Berks County, Pa.

In September 2017, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) hosted the Data-Driven Justice and Behavioral Health Design Institute (Design Institute) in Rockville, Md. The Design Institute convened 13 teams committed to the Data-Driven Justice (DDJ) initiative. Teams were selected through a competitive process to work directly with expert faculty in facilitated sessions and workshops to create action plans for developing and using integrated data systems that would aid their jurisdictions in identifying high utilizers of jails and crisis services. This case study is part of a series highlighting counties that participated in the Design Institute.

When the county attended the Design Institute it identified two priorities. The first priority was to gather the data necessary to understand the delivery and consumption of behavioral health, emergency and criminal justice services. The second was to identify the appropriate measures for determining the effectiveness or success of each service. In order to address these priorities, the county is creating a map of its data systems, including data elements that are stored within existing databases, developing a data governance strategy and identifying a technology solution that would allow data owners to share deidentified datasets with other stakeholders in order to identify high utilizers—also called frequent utilizers—with cross-system interactions. The priorities identified and action plan developed by the Berks County team at the Design Institute support the CJAB’s goals to use data and technology to better understand, design and implement effective and appropriate services for people with mental illnesses.