« September 2015 Issue

Breaking the Cycle of Substance Use Disorder, Hardship and Incarceration

Across the United States, millions of people with substance use disorders and mental illness are unable to access needed health and social services and have become trapped in a cycle of illness, hardship and incarceration. This is particularly true for people who are homeless, living in poverty and/or from communities of color.

Thanks to a $250,000 grant from Open Society Foundation, Community Catalyst will launch an initiative to identify and promote new models of comprehensive care for people at risk of being incarcerated, particularly those with drug and alcohol problems. This project will work under the Substance Use Disorders Project, which partners with advocates to prevent addiction and expand access to quality treatment and recovery services that help people live healthier lives.

“We’re looking to address a problem that exists for a group of vulnerable people that have a number of health issues, including underlying substance use,” said Alice Dembner, Substance Use Disorders Project Director at Community Catalyst. “We want to break the cycle of substance use, crime and incarceration.”

The new project aims to improve the health system to connect people to care, including health care and social and economic services such as housing, food, transportation and job training. This can offer a path to help people move toward jobs and healthier lives, rather than jail.

This initiative supports Community Catalyst’s goals of making sure the health system meets the needs of vulnerable people and of advancing health justice and health equity. It also fits with our Health System Transformation agenda to provide a more integrated health care model to reduce health care costs and provide higher quality care.

The new initiative will bring together advocates from the consumer health, substance use disorders and criminal justice movements to identify and promote new models of comprehensive health care; leverage coverage expansion and payment incentives in the Affordable Care Act to support these new models; provide advocacy tools to advance the models; and lift up the voices of consumers at risk of incarceration for nonviolent crimes.

Dembner explains, “Since many of these people are also heavy users of hospital emergency rooms when not incarcerated, there could be savings in health care by connecting them to primary care and social services. The savings in jail costs and emergency room treatment could be used to create sustainable new systems of holistic care and services.”

The project is set to launch on December 1, 2015.


Jessicah Pierre, Communications Associate 

O N   T H E   W I R E

Community Catalyst Board member, Anthony D. So, MD, MPA, a leading expert in access to health technologies, innovation and public health practice, has been named director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and will be the inaugural Robert S. Lawrence Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. So will assume full-time leadership of the CLF on Jan. 1, 2016.

Voices for Better Health received a three-year $1.5 million grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation to continue its work to develop geriatric provider collaborations as part of efforts to design better systems of care for people on both Medicare and Medicaid. The project will also bring geriatric expertise to Community Catalyst’s health system transformation work.

Rob Restuccia, executive director, and Douglas Jacobs, MD/MPH candidate at University of California, San Francisco and Harvard School of Public Health, joined forces to write a blog post on Health Affairs addressing discrimination in the health insurance system.

Michael Miller, Director of Strategic Policy, spoke to Modern Healthcare about states increasing hospital assessments to help fund Medicaid expansion.

David Jordan, director of the Dental Access Project, was featured in the Association of Health Care Journalists’ blog Covering Health applauding CODA’s decision to begin the accreditation process for dental therapist training programs.

Renée Markus Hodin, director of Voices for Better Health, talked about moving forward with dual eligible demonstration programs in POLITICO Pro (subscription needed). 

Join us in welcoming new staff members:  Ben Koller, Program Associate; Megan Wood, State Advocacy Manager; Lauren Banks, State Advocacy Manager; Elizabeth Kinnard, Program Associate; Yaquelin Cordon, Accountant Associate; Also, congratulations are in order for our recently promoted staff members:  Carrie Rogers, Program Manager/State Advocacy Manager; Rachelle Rubinow, Policy Analyst; Michelle Craig, Manager Outreach & Training.

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