By David Scholnick

A couple years ago in Iowa City, the Police Department noticed that a few residents struggling with homelessness were cycling back and forth through the medical, mental health, and criminal justice systems. About the same time, in Camden, our data team found that a disproportionate number of people with histories of arrest were using the city’s emergency rooms several times a year.

The Iowa City PD partnered with a countywide homelessness outreach coalition and started the state’s first-ever Housing First program. The Camden Coalition collaborated with the Camden County jail to create Camden RESET, a pilot intervention focused on people with complex health and social needs as they exit the jail. Neither solution would have been possible without robust data sharing between the healthcare and criminal justice sectors. Such collaboration can be intimidating in the face of legal and technical hurdles, many of which may not even be fully understood. But with common goals, trusting relationships, and some key legal knowledge, organizations can team up and make a profound difference in the lives of some of their most vulnerable neighbors.

Cross-sector Data in Action is the third in a series of three briefs and companion webinars outlining considerations for cross-sector data sharing to improve health and well-being. The series was produced by the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs, an initiative of the Camden Coalition, and made possible by the Aetna Foundation. The National Center is a contributor to the American Journal of Managed Care‘s website, where this series is cross-posted.

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