Breaking the Cycle: Improving Outcomes for California’s High Need, High Cost Population

November 7, 2017
8:30 am – 6:30 pm
The David Brower Center, UC Berkeley
2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

A slim slice of California’s citizens use the majority of government services. At hospitals, jails, and homeless shelters across the state, we see familiar faces again and again. Many of these people suffer from mental health, substance abuse, or persistent health conditions. Are we serving their needs effectively, efficiently, and equitably?

Several cities and counties around the state – from San Diego to Humboldt – are seeking to identify and address these “frequent utilizers.” Some of these efforts are focused specifically on health-care utilization and Whole Person Care. Other efforts are trying to reduce frequent contacts with law enforcement by testing new diversion options. And still others are trying to solve the state’s homelessness crisis, and are finding that housing-first models have downstream benefits in improving health and criminal justice outcomes.

The California Policy Lab is hosting a conference on November 7 that aims to integrate each of these valuable perspectives and provide a platform for sharing lessons learned between localities that are working on similar problems.

We will hear from national experts about which interventions are most promising. We will hear from counties that have integrated data on high utilizers and have surprising findings about the population. We will hear from practitioners about potential obstacles to success – including coordination across modalities, data linking, and public affairs strategies – and how to overcome them.

Please contact with any questions.

The California Policy Lab enables better lives through data-driven policy. We do this by generating evidence that transforms public policy by forming lasting partnerships between government and California’s flagship public universities to harness the power of research and administrative data. We have sites at UCLA and UC Berkeley.

Time Activity
8:30am – 9:30am Registration and Breakfast
9:30am – 9:40am Opening remarks
9:40am – 11:00am Session 1: Three lenses on a similar problem
How are health, homelessness, and criminal justice practitioners approaching the issue of high utilization? What lessons can each offer the others? What promising efforts are ongoing nationwide?

  • Victoria Lawson, Senior Research Associate, CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance
  • Wes Yin, Associate Professor, Public Policy and Anderson School of Management, UCLA
  • Moderator: Carol Wilkins, Consultant, Abt Associates
11:15am – 12:35pm Session 2: Understanding the high-utilizing population
How do we define utilization? What attributes distinguish the highest utilizers? What patterns or trends do we see? What subgroups, taxonomies, or frameworks help disaggregate potential problems and solutions?

  • Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, Lesar Development Consultants
  • Maria X Martinez, Director of Whole Person Care, San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Chris Schneweis, Senior Management Analyst, Johnson County Manager’s Office
  • Moderator: Till von Wachter, Faculty Director, California Policy Lab-UCLA
12:35pm – 1:40pm Lunch
1:50pm – 3:20pm Session 3: Outcomes and interventions
What interventions are promising? What are the differences between criminal justice, health, and housing interventions? What evidence gaps remain?

  • Corrin Buchanan, Interim Deputy Director, Office of Diversion and Reentry at Los Angeles County Department of Health Services
  • Maurice Classen, Program Officer, Criminal Justice, MacArthur Foundation
  • Margot Kushel, Professor of Medicine, UC San Francisco
  • Moderator: Steven Raphael, Professor of Public Policy, UC Berkeley
3:40pm – 5:10pm Session 4: Overcoming practical challenges
How to accomplish data integration? How to get momentum across several public agencies? What public affairs strategies work best?

  • Greta Hansen, Chief Assistant County Counsel, Santa Clara County
  • Max Stevens, Principal Analyst, Los Angeles County CEO
  • Jesse Benet, Jail Diversion and System Reform Coordinator, King County Behavioral Health & Recovery Division
  • Moderator: Janey Rountree, Executive Director, California Policy Lab-UCLA
5:10pm – 6:30pm Reception


California Policy Lab Hosts Conference to Improve Lives for the High-Needs, High-Cost Population

Attendees share new evidence on reducing utilization of hospitals, homeless shelters, and jails

November 7, 2017

Berkeley, CA – The California Policy Lab today hosted experts from around the country to discuss new research to improve outcomes for the high-needs, high-cost population that cycles in and out of emergency rooms, homeless shelters, and jails.

“The small fraction of people who are frequent utilizers of social programs and emergency interventions account for a large share of the costs,” said Jesse Rothstein, the Lab’s Faculty Director at UC Berkeley. “Municipalities around California and the nation are experimenting with how to improve outcomes and reduce costs for this population.”

Over 150 policy leaders, academics, and advocates gathered to discuss ways to better serve frequent users of social programs and learn about innovative efforts underway around the country.

The speakers featured experts specializing in healthcare, housing and  homelessness, and criminal justice. Participants discussed patterns and trends in utilization and results from new research and interventions.

The conference, entitled Breaking the Cycle: Improving Outcomes for California’s High Need, High Cost Population, was the first for the California Policy Lab. The Lab started in February and seeks to pair experts from California’s flagship public universities with government agencies to work on policy-relevant research.


Evan White, Executive Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley,, (626) 524-5463.

Jesse Rothstein, Faculty Director of the California Policy Lab and Professor of Public Policy and Economics, University of California, Berkeley,, (510) 495-0646.

Janey Rountree, Executive Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Los Angeles,, (310) 206-4915.

Till von Wachter, Faculty Director of the California Policy Lab and Professor of Economics, University of California, Los Angeles,, (310) 825-5665.

About the California Policy Lab:

The California Policy Lab is a new initiative at UC Berkeley and UCLA that creates better lives through data-driven policy. CPL’s mission is to improve people’s lives by generating evidence that transforms public policy. It does this by forming lasting partnerships between government and California’s flagship public universities to harness the power of research and administrative data. CPL works on California’s most urgent problems, including homelessness, poverty, crime, and education inequality.


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