In a recent visit to Camden, President Barack Obama praised the Camden County Police Department for its success in community policing and highlighted the opportunity to use data to explore patterns, improve services, and tackle tough-to-solve problems. Through Camden ARISE (Administrative Records Integrated for Service Excellence), the Coalition is partnering with the city’s police to research the complex factors driving high-utilization in both health care and the criminal justice system. The project’s initial data findings were presented on July 16, 2015.
An audience of representatives from health care, law enforcement, criminal justice, social services, and education listened to Camden Coalition founder Dr. Jeffrey Brenner and Aaron Truchil, director of data, research, and evaluation, present the results of a research project linking Camden City police data with information from the city’s three hospitals.
Data from the last five years showed a small group of 205 people who had repeated hospitalizations and arrests. These “dual-system high-utilizers,” individuals had at least ten emergency department visits and six or more arrests between 2010 and 2014.
Unmet behavioral health needs were a common theme in this population: three-fourths had had substance- or mental health-related hospitalizations. Individuals with lower utilization, or even high-utilization in only one system, are less frequently hospitalized for substance abuse or mental health issues. The research team also found that over 40 percent of dual-system high-utilizers were homeless at the time of their hospital visit or arrest.
According to the findings, over half of dual-system high-utilizers had at least one substance-related hospitalization prior to an arrest. For many, the cycle of hospitalization and arrest was repeated over a number of years, prompting the question: are there opportunities to intervene at crucial times to change individual outcomes?
“Better communication and collaboration across the health care and law enforcement sectors could alter these outcomes,” said Coalition Senior Research Manager Dawn Wiest. Coalition staff and the Camden County Police Department will use these findings to devise plans to provide dual-system high-utilizers with the support and services they need to help them break out of this cycle.
Finding strategic points of intervention—before an arrest or hospitalization—could not only save public funds, it could prevent human tragedy. “Right now, we have no comprehensive solution for this population,” Dr. Michael Kirchhoff, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at Cooper University Hospital, explained during the presentation. “It’s often a square peg in a round hole. The system has no ‘off-the-shelf’ solution [to working with this subset of patients].”
The Camden ARISE project will continue working with law enforcement officials and gathering data from additional sectors, such as education and housing, to create a more holistic picture of how our public systems interact and how they can be improved to help create a healthier, safer Camden for all.