Middlesex County Named Data-Driven Justice Project Pilot Site
Funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation will help law enforcement better identify behavioral health needs with the goal of avoiding unnecessary incarceration
ARLINGTON — Middlesex County has been selected as a national pilot site for an effort to break the cycle of incarceration for those suffering from mental health and substance use disorders, Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian and the leaders of two dozen municipal law enforcement agencies announced today.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) has named Middlesex as one of three Data-Driven Justice (DDJ) pilot sites across the country, joining Johnson County, Iowa and Long Beach, California. LJAF has committed $1.6 million to support the three pilot projects focused on linking local police, jail, hospital and service provider data to identify individuals who overlap within these multiple systems – known as “frequent” or “super utilizers”.
“We are incredibly honored to be selected by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation as a pilot site,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “We know the answer is not to arrest and incarcerate our way out of this problem. This designation is recognition of the outstanding commitment public safety agencies across Middlesex County have to serving our communities in an effort to shift the paradigm and produce better outcomes for those who need it the most. ”
“The DDJ pilot sites will evaluate innovative forms of crisis response that we hope will lead to better life outcomes for Frequent Utilizers and better public safety outcomes for communities,” said Lynn Overmann, vice president of data-driven justice at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. “We applaud our partners in Middlesex County for being national leaders in their commitment to connecting justice-involved people with mental illness and substance use disorders to the treatment they need.”
DDJ was initially launched in the summer of 2016 by the Obama Administration, with a goal of using data to break the cycle of incarceration for those suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. Locally, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office together with two dozen public safety agencies have joined with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and National Association of Counties (NACo) to identify resources to support local efforts.
With funding from LJAF, Middlesex will be able to hire a project manager and data scientist to work with partner agencies. It will also work with OpenLattice, a leader in secure data technology, on a pioneering data management system.
“Municipal law enforcement officers are equipped to respond to, but not solve, mental health and substance abuse issues, which are some of the most common challenges presented to police,” Concord Police Chief Joseph O’Connor said. “Our hope is that by participating in this initiative, we can get these people the professional help and resources they need for the long-term and to break the cycle of incarceration.”
In addition to public safety agencies, the pilot initiative will also engage public health and health care entities in an effort to better identify and coordinate care to this population.
“We look forward to our continued partnership and shared commitment with the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office on the Data-Driven Justice project, which provides better coordinated and more responsive care to individuals in our communities who are struggling with behavioral health and substance use disorders,” said James W Hunt, Jr., President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.
“MHA supports and applauds the much-needed efforts of the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office to develop the Data Driven Justice Initiative as an aid to patients struggling with mental illness and addiction. Massachusetts’ hospitals are actively engaged across the state to support local resources that provide this patient population with the specialized medical and social services they need to stay in the community. This important effort in the midst of our state’s struggle with the opioid crisis is a significant step forward in the effort to improve overall access to care,” stated Michael Sroczynski, Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association’s Vice President of Government Advocacy.
Currently, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in Acton, Arlington, Ashland (in conjunction with Holliston, Hopkinton and Sherborn), Bedford, Billerica, Boxborough, Burlington, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Dracut, Lincoln, Lowell, Marlborough, North Reading, Reading, Somerville, Tewksbury, Townsend, Wakefield, Watertown, Woburn and Winchester are all participant agencies.