Middlesex County, Mass., is a large and diverse county encompassing 54 different cities and towns of various sizes. Throughout these jurisdictions, leaders were seeing similar trends in opioid-related crimes and fatalities and increasing law enforcement contact with people with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office was seeing the impact on its jail population. In 2016, the county adopted a regional approach to combat these issues by establishing partnerships between the sheriff and chiefs of police from police departments within the county. As of June 2017, 21 of the 54 police departments within the county had joined the Data-Driven Justice initiative and assigned a staff person to work collaboratively to address these issues.
In collaboration with the Stepping Up initiative, the Data-Driven Justice initiative and the One Mind Campaign, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) convened a Best Practices Implementation Academy to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses and Substance Use Disorders in the Criminal Justice System (the Academy) in June 2017 in Washington, D.C. SAMHSA contracted with Policy Research Associates (PRA), which operates SAMHSA’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation, to facilitate the Academy. This case study is part of a series highlighting the six counties that constituted the “Best Practices” teams representing the Data-Driven Justice initiative and the Stepping Up initiative at the Academy.