Connecting Cross-Sector Partners to Solve Challenging Health Problems
The value of tapping into multiple data sources underscores the importance of effective partnerships. When information and resources become siloed, efforts to address behavioral health challenges can become hampered. In an interconnected health system, leaders in the executive branch (e.g., state health departments, behavioral health agencies, state corrections facilities, and criminal justice, labor and social service agencies), local governments, and other public and private entities work together to achieve positive health outcomes. State legislators are well-positioned to provide direction to state agencies to coordinate state and federal resources and create partnerships between behavioral health and public health agencies as well as complementary sectors like housing, criminal justice and social services, among others. Partnerships between different sectors help leverage existing public health resources and evidence-based tools to improve the health of the community, generate efficiencies, minimize duplication of efforts and realign resources to address current gaps.
There are a variety of potential ways states can leverage partnerships to improve public health. States can consider seeking Medicaid waivers, such as Section 1115 waivers, to allow their state Medicaid agency to partner with local public health or human services agencies to address issues relating to homelessness, housing and SUD treatment. Policymakers may also consider approaches that enable their state’s public health agency to partner with local public health agencies and other organizations to address pressing health concerns. Minnesota’s health department, for instance, provides grant funding and technical assistance for tribal governments to address tobacco use. These resources support community-based tobacco control programs, allow systemic changes, like smoke-free policies, and provide educational and cultural awareness activities.
In another partnership model, Washington uses a high level of data aggregation and sharing across Medicaid claims, criminal justice, behavioral health and social service systems. Of the state’s relevant data-sharing partnerships, the two largest are the Analytics, Interoperability, and Measurement (AIM) initiative and the Predictive Risk Intelligence System (PRISM).
By creating a comprehensive data infrastructure bridging multiple state agencies—including the Washington State Health Care Authority, departments of health and social services, as well as other insurers—AIM provides the opportunity for shared analytics to address health disparities. By integrating information from medical, social service, behavioral health, and long-term care payment and assessment data systems, PRISM identifies Medicaid clients most in need of comprehensive care coordination based on risk scores developed through predictive modeling. This helps the state Medicaid agency coordinate with other agencies to provide services and predict health care costs for the most at-risk populations, allowing policymakers to allocate resources more efficiently.
Another example of a partnership connecting behavioral health, public health and other public agencies is Huntington, W.V.’s opioid overdose quick response teams (QRT). The teams are composed of a partnership of a paramedic, law enforcement official, counselor, and pastor or other faith-based community member. The county’s emergency medical service provider notifies the QRT of every overdose that occurs in the county. The QRT tracks this information and other demographic data and attempts to contact every overdose survivor within 24 to 72 hours of the overdose with the end goal of connecting them to treatment. By partnering closely and communicating daily with treatment providers, the QRT tracks available beds and other treatment resources. This allows the QRT to provide timely referrals for opioid use disorder treatment. The QRT is supported by local, state and federal funding. Between 2017 and 2018, the QRT successfully referred roughly 30% of overdose survivors to treatment. Over the same timeframe, overdoses declined by 36%.