Use of Data to Inform Decision Making

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Use of Data to Inform Decision Making

Ongoing data collection and analysis are critical to making informed decisions about community responder programs. By developing baseline data and assessing progress with these metrics, communities can determine whether changes or improvements should be made to meet program goals. Stakeholders can also use data to better understand who is receiving access to community responder programs, where service referrals are available, which neighborhoods are most in need of community responders, and whether access to these services is equitable. Data can further be used to measure and improve the quality of interactions between community members and responder programs.

Guidance for Collecting and Using Data to Inform Decisions

1. Identify data metrics and sources

Multiple data sources can be used to inform which calls community responder teams are directed to as well as whether they are realizing success in their efforts. These can include 911 call data, screening and assessment responses, information gathered by community responders, and electronic health care records. Read More…

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Additional examples of call response data metrics are the number of incoming calls identified for community response team dispatch, number of calls for service responded to, number of unique individuals served, and number of repeat calls for unique individuals. There are also outcome statistics that programs are collecting that may include number of unique individuals given a referral, number of unique individuals who declined referrals, number of encounters resulting in diversion away from jails, and number of encounters resolved at the scene. Community engagement, law enforcement, and first responder surveys can offer additional insight. Stakeholder groups should determine which sources are most appropriate and which metrics indicate program success based on the goals of the program and the community’s needs.

2. Form research partnerships and learn from other jurisdictions’ models

A data collection plan and logic model should be established during the planning phase of the community responder program, and the type of evaluation used to assess progress (as well as the goals of it) should be determined at that time, if applicable. Read More…

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Communities can seek out local research partners to support data collection and evaluation efforts to track the progress of the community responder program. Many community responder models begin as pilot programs and may experience initial success on a smaller scale than within an entire community. These experiences can still be helpful for other places looking to build programs; they can also be used to support the development of a research base for community responder programs.

3. Determine data collection and analysis responsibilities

The lead agency should provide regular, comprehensive training to help community responders better support people in crisis or in need of assistance.

As part of the data collection plan, community responder programs should also establish roles and responsibilities for collecting, sharing, and analyzing data among their key partners. Depending on which agency leads the community responder program and which owns the associated data, data-sharing agreements and information-sharing protocols may be necessary.

4. Collect data on individual, program, and system-level metrics

Community responder programs should routinely collect data—including through the call triage process, onsite interactions, and follow-ups with individuals. Data should be collected at the individual, program, and system levels to gather a holistic view of the short- and long-term impacts of the community responder program. Read More…

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This data can also offer important information on how frequently individuals are being referred to and using a program. Programs should categorize data by race, ethnicity, gender, and other key characteristics. This will help to ensure that communities most impacted by crisis and high police response and presence have equitable access to the programs. Data can also be used to engender continued community support and bolster funding opportunities.


More jurisdictions across the country are beginning to develop community responder programs, which position health professionals and staff trained in crisis response as first responders to behavioral health crises and social disturbances.

Across the U.S., local governments are seeking to respond to appeals from residents to institutionalize public safety and crisis response systems without further relying on incarceration. Community responder programs have been implemented in some localities to address such concerns. This virtual discussion focused on data collection and utilization strategies in such programs and featured speakers from the CSG Justice Center, Portland Street Response, and Integral Care.