Ecosystems 101

By Rebecca Koppel, Senior Program Manager for Field Building and Resources

Building the complex care field Strengthening ecosystems of care Quality improvement SDOH & health equity

Ecosystems of care are composed of interconnected programs and services designed to holistically address community members’ complex health and social needs.

They result from organizations in a community working collectively and intentionally across sectors to better address the root causes of poor health, poor quality of life, and health inequity among populations with complex health and social needs.

As in natural ecosystems where organisms’ interconnected roles allow diverse species to thrive, ecosystems of care — where organizations’ and community members’ roles interconnect— allow everyone to thrive, most significantly those with complex health and social needs.

Our Ecosystems 101 brief:

  • Introduces the concept of ecosystems of care
  • Provides an overview of what an ecosystem of care is
  • Discusses why ecosystems of care are important for addressing complex needs
  • Provides guidance on and examples of how to build an ecosystem of care

We hope you will use this brief and the associated resources below to guide you in building and strengthening your own community’s ecosystem of care.

Ecosystems case studies

Our ecosystems case studies go deeper into how collaborations in communities across the country have built and strengthened ecosystems of care focused on specific populations.

  • In Allegheny, Pennsylvania, six organizations came together to expand the capacity of homeless shelters to address behavioral health, to reduce the use of county crisis services
  • In Camden, New Jersey, four organizations co-created processes to link emergency department patients to timely outpatient behavioral healthcare
  • In San Diego, California, four organizations collaborated to improve the mental and emotional health of children with complex health and social needs and their families
  • In Spartanburg, South Carolina, three organizations joined forces to better support people re-entering the community from long-term incarceration and those under probation and parole
  • In York, Pennsylvania, six organizations teamed up to support individuals and families involved in the county-wide criminal legal continuum (e.g., pre-trial, jail, parole, probation) who also have behavioral health and social needs