Well-Being is Safety

The strongest communities are the safest communities. When a community is well, it can be a powerful, resilient force against crime. Well-being means people are living in conditions that promote mental and physical health, connectedness and resilience. They have dignity and the resources to reach their full potential and thrive. Measuring safety with crime data alone misses the opportunity to measure the most important public health strategy available: improving well-being. By defining well-being and recognizing the barriers to achieving it, we can invest in prevention scaled to the community need and foster the conditions needed to truly achieve safety.

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1. safety

Define Well-Being for Your Community

There can be no public safety without community well-being. But what does it mean for a community to be well?

Why do we need it?

Public safety strategies that focus primarily on responding to crime fail to address the many other, often unreported, factors that make communities unsafe and unwell, such as exposure to chronic violence and early childhood trauma.

How does it help?

Defining community well-being offers a baseline for measuring the impact of safety strategies. When the entire community is engaged in defining well-being, the result is more likely to be inclusive and accountable to the realities, disparities and priorities of day-to-day life. A definition of well-being may include access to healthcare, affordable housing, stable employment, education and parental supports.

Questions To Ask

  • Have we engaged our most impacted communities and all system leaders in defining community well-being?
  • Are our health and safety leaders committed to well-being as critical to our Shared Safety strategy?
  • Have we analyzed data and input from local governmental and nongovernmental entities to better understand the risks?
1 in 5 Californians (20.6%) struggle to afford basic necessities, including nearly one quarter of California’s children.

What does it take to implement?

  • Engage a diverse group of governmental and community stakeholders in defining well-being.
  • Deepen understanding of the risk factors associated with crime and the contributors to well-being, particularly as they relate to vulnerable populations.
  • Designate a senior-level staff person to manage and coordinate the effort and ensure all relevant agencies share responsibility.
  • Consider factors outside traditional health and safety measures.
  • Publicize the community’s concept of well-being and hold public leaders accountable for their support.

Outcome Measures

  • Agreed-upon definition of community well-being.
  • Public statements committing to well-being as central to a Shared Safety strategy.
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2. safety

Identify Gaps in Community Well-Being

Only when we know where the holes and barriers are to well-being, can we begin to address them.

Why do we need it?

If we fail to analyze gaps in our local infrastructure, we will not know where to prioritize our attention and we run the risk of expending resources on the wrong things.

How does it help?

By mapping the local system, we can identify underserved people or groups, or conversely, those who are receiving services disproportionate to their needs. This analysis can help prioritize and coordinate limited resources and identify the most cost-efficient approaches, especially for populations that are more likely to fall between the cracks, such as immigrants, young people of color and victims of domestic or other forms of intimate partner or family violence.

Questions To Ask

  • Have we conducted a gap analysis in our community?
  • Where in our local continuum of services are the greatest unmet needs (e.g., early childhood, education, mental health, substance abuse, housing, transportation, immigrant concerns, etc.)?
  • Which populations are most underserved?
  • Are people accessing services at the earliest intervention point?
  • Are all our services being fully utilized? If not, why?
Nine out of 10 people who need treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism do not receive it.

What does it take to implement?

  • Assign overall responsibility for coordinating the gap analysis to an individual or agency.
  • Ensure the review is culturally relevant across all populations and system providers.
  • Use the gap analysis to identify local needs, including real or perceived barriers.
  • Engage stakeholders in determining whether resources could be used more efficiently with a different population or point on the continuum.
  • Establish reliable longitudinal data so you can track changes over time.
  • Look for opportunities to integrate or streamline and coordinate existing services.

Outcome Measures

  • Increase in percentage of individuals receiving appropriate services.
  • Reduction in disparities in accessing services.
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3. safety

Scale Up to Meet the Greatest Needs

Investing in early treatment services – particularly for mental illness, drug addiction and trauma – increases well-being and reduces reliance on the criminal justice system.

Why do we need it?

It is much safer and less costly to make scaled investments in treating health and behavioral health needs at the earliest possible stage than waiting until symptoms have worsened or people become involved with the criminal justice system.

How does it help?

Safety is significantly improved when individuals have access to treatment for their health needs, particularly mental illness, drug addiction and trauma. Results are most successful when services are culturally relevant, trauma-informed and holistic.

Questions To Ask

  • What will it take to bring programs to scale?
  • How are we prioritizing unmet needs?
  • How can we expand our health and behavioral health workforce?
  • Have we considered alternative delivery systems, such as peer-based models, to expand capacity?
Governments spend $500 billion on substance abuse annually. For every dollar, only two cents goes to prevention and treatment.

What does it take to implement?

  • Prioritize investments based on the needs identified in your gap analysis.
  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine where additional capacity would have the greatest benefit.Think system-wide and recognize the limitations of pilot projects.
  • Engage partners, such as health plans or private businesses who may provide additional resources.
  • Ensure treatment is available prior to law enforcement involvement and without triggering involvement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • Monitor investments by tracking outcomes among governmental and community-based organizations.

Outcome Measures

  • Increased percentage of individuals with a mental health need or substance use disorder who received treatment in the past 12 months.
  • Decrease in waiting time to access treatment.
  • Reduction in the prevalence of individuals with a mental illness in local jails.
   
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4. safety

Measure Safety Through Well-Being Indicators

Crime rates alone won’t tell you whether your community is safe. A better yardstick is finding ways to gauge your community’s overall well-being.

Why do we need it?

Defining safety as having low crime rates fails to account for myriad ways individuals and communities are vulnerable to harm that have more to do with well-being. Well-being indicators measure the extent to which a community has access to supports that protect them from harm, such as preventive healthcare, affordable housing, employment and quality education.

How does it help?

There is a saying that “what gets measured, gets done.” A community’s well-being is the best measure of safety because it takes into account the major drivers of crime as well as the forces and conditions that help communities build resilience.

Questions To Ask

  • Do we have well-being indicators we believe are critical to community safety?
  • Which are the most important indicators given our definition of well-being and Shared Safety priorities?
  • What data do we need to measure these indicators?
California ranks 36th out of 50 states in children’s well-being based on 16 key indicators of education, health, family and economic well-being.

What does it take to implement?

  • Involve stakeholders in establishing indicators that reflect community priorities and a shared definition of safety and well-being. For example, safety is enhanced when youth have stable relationships with nurturing adults, when formerly incarcerated individuals have jobs and places to live, and when crime survivors are able to seek help without being exposed to additional trauma.
  • Establish an ongoing review to measure progress in those chosen areas (e.g., housing, environment, access to healthcare, education, economic opportunity, civic engagement). Common metrics are the foundation of joint accountability for agreed-upon outcomes.
  • Set reasonable timeframes and prioritize certain measures, depending on community needs.

Outcome Measures

Five to 10 indicators that measure progress in improving well-being.
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5. safety

Cultivate Sanctuary Spaces for All

Once strategies are in place to promote well-being, equal access must be guaranteed for everyone, especially those who have been marginalized.

Why do we need it?

People will not seek help if they know from experience that it is not safe to do so. When immigrant communities risk losing family members if they call the police, homeless youth are criminalized for being on the streets or LGBTQ individuals are denied their dignity, these individuals are less likely to access services and more likely to become victims.

How does it help?

Establishing culturally appropriate avenues to greater well-being for individuals who have been denied access or marginalized builds trust and encourages people to come out of the shadows to access services, be witnesses or otherwise participate in crime reduction efforts. This helps keep everyone safe.

Questions To Ask

  • Does my jurisdiction implement the same due process protections for all community members, regardless of citizenship status?
  • What are the current caseloads of our public defenders or private defense bar?
  • Are all defendants properly advised – in their first languages – on how their criminal adjudications may impact their immigration proceedings?
On average, there are almost 36 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.

What does it take to implement?

  • Conduct culturally appropriate analyses to determine who does not feel safe accessing services and why.
  • Put protections in place to ensure that these fears and past experiences are addressed and communicate these changes.
  • Sufficiently fund legal services so that the criminal justice system can uphold everyone’s constitutional protections.
  • Ensure that all public systems have ready access to translators and culturally competent staff.
  • Stop local resources from triggering greater harm, e.g., deportation.

Outcome Measures

  • Equal due process protections are extended to all communities.
  • Increased percentage of individuals from historically marginalized groups accessing relevant services.
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Blueprint Overview