Best Practices for Counties to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses and Substance Use Disorders in Jail: Six Case Studies

National Association of Counties

By Kathy Rowings

In April 2018, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) collaborated with the Stepping Up initiative, the Data-Driven Justice initiative, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge to convene a Best Practices Implementation Academy to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses and Substance Use Disorders in Jail (BPIA). The BPIA brought together 24 counties involved in one or more of the three initiatives to learn successful strategies and identify concrete steps to address behavioral health in the justice system.

Six of the 24 counties were invited to the BPIA as “Best Practices” teams representing the Data-Driven Justice initiative and the Stepping Up initiative. Best Practices teams showcased their approaches and programs to “Implementation” teams. The case studies below are part of a series highlighting these six Best Practices teams at the BPIA.


The Allegheny County data warehouse was created in the early 2000s by consolidating publicly funded human services data, including behavioral health, child welfare, intellec­tual disability, homelessness and aging. Since then, it has expanded to include 21 cate­gories of data. Whereas the county owns much of the data that goes into the warehouse, some information is shared from external sources such as school districts, public benefits and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The data warehouse is part of the county’s commitment to building a data-driven system that improves service delivery, decision-making and communication with the public. The county’s data warehouse is a critical resource in its efforts to improve public safety through the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative.

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