Case Study: Polk County, Iowa

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.

To improve the quality of life for high utilizers, the county identified two interrelated priorities while attending the Design Institute. First, Polk County leaders are focusing efforts on enhancing the county’s data collection and tracking abilities by identifying a technology solution that would allow them to pull and analyze data from multiple health and social services systems in order to uncover high utilizers with multiple system interactions. Second, although Polk County already has robust behavioral health services in place, leaders are emphasizing a data-driven approach toward identifying what services and supports best meet the needs of high utilizers and any gaps in resources available in the community. For example, the county funds intense services models including assertive community treatment, forensic assertive community treatment and wraparound service programs, but continues to assess whether such services are working for a high utilizer population that has not been connected in the past or stayed engaged with programs previously offered. Through its DDJ efforts, Polk County is positioning itself to understand what service approaches will work for people with high needs before their situations escalate and become more critical.