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Photo by Jason Redmond/​The Associated Press

Houston — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today issued a request for proposals (RFP) for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) focused on testing programs to help people who repeatedly cycle through the criminal justice, health care, and social service systems in their communities. In particular, LJAF is interested in proposals to evaluate established approaches such as crisis intervention teams, assertive community treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy, short-term mental health crisis stabilization programs, and programs incorporating a Housing First approach. LJAF also seeks proposals to assess promising new models. The proposed trials should be designed to measure outcomes such as decreases in arrest or recidivism rates; reductions in emergency room visits and hospitalizations; better health; greater housing stability; and improved economic well-being.

The RFP is part of LJAF’s broader Data-Driven Justice (DDJ) project aimed at assisting jurisdictions that are using data to identify people frequently involved with multiple systems. Through this solicitation, the DDJ team hopes to learn which programs most effectively address the needs of the target population. Research projects will build the evidence base so that cities, counties, and states have a better understanding of what does and does not work and can implement programs to support meaningful improvements.

Research shows that of the 11 million people who spend time in local jails each year, 68 percent have a substance use disorder, 64 percent have a mental illness, and 44 percent suffer from chronic health problems. Yet jail systems often lack the training or resources they need to respond to inmates’ substance use and behavioral health conditions. This has negative consequences for the individuals — the majority of whom are charged with low-level, nonviolent offenses — as well as society. Regular stints in jail often exacerbate defendants’ health and life challenges, and these same individuals frequently cycle through hospital emergency rooms and other emergency social service agencies. The uncoordinated care fails to address the underlying health and mental health issues that are driving people into these systems, perpetuating an ongoing cycle of costly and ineffective treatment. In fact, every year, taxpayers spend $22 billion on incarceration costs alone.

There is a great deal of interest in determining how best to use data to improve our nation’s criminal justice and health care systems,” LJAF Vice President of Data-Driven Justice Lynn Overmann explained. The leaders of more than 140 communities across the country have shown a commitment to data-driven justice. They are dedicated to delivering interventions that help individuals in their communities achieve the stability and opportunities they need. This RFP is a critical step in strengthening preventative health care strategies and meaningfully improving people’s lives.”

Those interested in submitting a proposal are asked to send a letter of interest (LOI) by Oct. 1, 2017. If the LOI meets the specified criteria, the applicant will be invited to submit a full proposal that will be evaluated by a peer review board. For more information and to view guidelines for both the LOI and full proposals, please see the RFP here.