NACo Research Foundation Receives Grant from Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare to Form New Partnership to Help Counties Improve Access to Health Care for Justice-Involved Individuals

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The National Association of Counties Research Foundation (NACoRF) has been awarded a three-year grant by the Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare to help counties improve the health of individuals involved, or at risk of being involved, with the criminal justice system.

The Challenge

More than 11 million people are admitted to jails every year. Many individuals who are admitted have untreated mental illnesses and substance use disorders and could avoid unnecessary incarceration if appropriate health care services within a community-based, coordinated system were available. The identification of tools for effective behavioral health assessment and diversion will: (1) allow for critical access to services for individuals with acute needs, (2) decrease the burden on the criminal justice system and (3) strengthen communities that have struggled to access services.

Our Approach

NACoRF will engage Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS), a national leader in promoting health care connectivity between jails and communities, to develop and implement pilots in two counties. The pilots will assist community stakeholders in developing comprehensive and connected systems of care to serve justice-involved individuals returning to the community and avoid unnecessary incarceration of individuals with mental illnesses and addictions.

The pilot sites will be selected based on local partnerships between health and justice stakeholders and will receive technical assistance from COCHS to identify sustainable opportunities. This will include leveraging information technology and data matching to identify target participants at intake to jail or at risk of incarceration, assessing their insurance status, facilitating enrollment in Medicaid or the Marketplace and coordinating their behavioral health care upon release to the community. The models developed and lessons learned through these pilots will be disseminated so that communities across the country will have the opportunity to adapt and emulate tested models.

Our Partner - The Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare

The Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare (the Foundation) provides resources to identify and support innovative approaches to improving and increasing the quality of, and access to, health care for underserved populations. The NACoRF collaboration represents the first of its kind for the Foundation. Kathy Bradley-Wells, President of the Foundation, stated: “We are pleased to partner with NACoRF and COCHS. This project has the potential to be transformative and result in a more focused approach to the gaps in health care services, particularly in the areas of behavioral health and substance abuse for individuals who are involved, or may become involved, in the criminal justice system. We look forward to our work together.” 

To learn more about the project, please contact Nastassia Walsh, NACo Program Manager, at or 202.942.4289.

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