What are these reports about?

Nationally and locally, policymakers and practitioners are interested in the people who frequently use publicly funded services, particularly crisis services. Most people who use crisis services do so infrequently during a year. A small number of people, however, use crisis services frequently, and sometimes they use more than one type of crisis service.

Allegheny County’s rich integrated data allows us to look at the people who use crisis services. This report summarizes key findings about the people who were involved with one or more of the following four crisis services in the years 2016 through 2017: hospital emergency departments, emergency homeless shelters, mental health crisis programs, and the criminal justice system. This summary report will be followed up by reports examining each of these four service areas in more detail.

What are the takeaways?

  • Of the people who used at least one of the four crisis services examined, 6% (10,655) met the definition of frequent users in at least one system. They accounted for 26% of all service episodes during this period.
  • There is little overlap between frequent utilizers of one type of crisis service and another. Just 9% of users were frequent in multiple systems. This does not mean they didn’t use other services, just that they were not frequent users of those systems.
  • Nonetheless, 26% of frequent users of mental health crisis services were also frequent users of hospital emergency departments, indicating that the emergency room might be a point of intervention for people in mental health crisis.
  • All frequent users of emergency shelter were connected to other human services prior to their first shelter stay during this period. This overlap suggests that although frequent utilizers of emergency shelters were connected to supports, the reasons behind people’s continued use of shelter were not adequately addressed through the services they were receiving.

Black residents are using crisis services at disproportionately high rates, and the disproportionality is more pronounced when looking at frequent utilizers. While 13% of the Allegheny County population is Black, 42% of people who used crisis systems (both frequent and non-frequent) were Black, and 49% of frequent utilizers were Black.

How is this report used?

This work is meant to be exploratory and descriptive in nature to help continue and expand the conversation about how we look at frequent utilizers and potential interventions going forward. By looking more closely at this population of frequent utilizers, we hope to gain insight into their needs, identify key intervention points, and find ways to encourage long-term wellness while reducing the need for repeat intense service usage.

Where can I go for more information?

For questions or suggestions, please reach out to DHS-Research@alleghenycounty.us

Latest data and analysis

An analytic report and interactive map describe homicides in our region using data from the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Focusing on 2016 through 2021, the analysis provides recent and long-term homicide trends as well as comparisons to rates nationally and in other cities. Homicides are just a fraction of gun violence, however, so we also provide data on non-fatal shootings for a more complete picture.

Since gun violence does not affect all geographic locations and populations equally, the analysis describes victim and perpetrator demographics and homicide locations by municipality, neighborhood and census tract. Our research highlights the people and places who are disproportionately impacted by homicide and gun violence in order to inform policy and violence prevention efforts.

What are the key takeaways?

  • Homicide is heavily concentrated in a small number of higher-need communities and overwhelmingly cuts short the lives of young Black men.
  • Both Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh saw increases in homicides from 2019 through 2021. This was after stable or declining trends from 2016 through 2019.
  • Firearms were used in nearly 90% of homicides.
  • Homicides usually occurred close to where victims lived. Nearly 90% of victims were murdered within 10 miles of their home. Females were twice as likely as males to be murdered at their own residence.

How is Allegheny County using this data?

Based on the homicide trends presented in this report and research on best practices, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) is sustainably funding public health approaches to community violence reduction that are rooted in evidence.

What other homicide data is available?

Two interactive dashboards provide up-to-date data on homicides in the County and homicides in the City of Pittsburgh.


Previous reports about homicide

In October of 2018, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded Allegheny County a Safety and Justice Challenge grant to reduce the population of the Allegheny County Jail by 20%. This series of reports outlines the progress made in the first three years of the project, as well as plans to continue reforms in the criminal justice system, address racial and ethnic disparities and engage community members in this work.

This report explores the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment in Allegheny County. It uses data from Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance records. We examined the employment, earnings and unemployment benefits of working-age clients of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) from July 2019 through September 2020. This analysis sheds light on how some of Allegheny County’s neediest workers fared in the months preceding and following the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

What are the takeaways?

  • DHS clients have persistent difficulty maintaining work and earning enough money to support themselves. Working-age clients had employment rates between 34 and 38 percent and quarterly earnings around $4,000 prior to the onset of COVID-19.
  • DHS clients’ employment and earnings decreased markedly during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but began to rebound back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of September 2020. These trends paralleled the countywide situation.

How is this report used?

By continuing to investigate our clients’ employment experiences, DHS and its partners can gain insight into the economic challenges of our clients and tailor our services, including education and job-related supports, to better meet clients’ needs.

The Latinx population of Allegheny County is growing fast. It is important to understand this community’s demographics, geographic locations, and how our social, health and human services systems are and are not meeting their needs so we can strengthen families and advance the health and wellness that are crucial to supporting the local Latinx community.

What is the Latinx needs assessment?

In early 2020 the Latinx community asked Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) to commission a community needs assessment. DHS issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in August 2020, and a review committee selected Metis Associates as the successful proposer. The RFP is available here. Award details and the successful proposal is available here.

The assessment, which was conducted between January and September 2021, was a collaboration between Metis Associates, a research firm from New York; MonWin, an urban planning firm in Pittsburgh; and several community researchers. The assessment includes interviews with community leaders and service providers, focus groups with community members, and a review of public and administrative data sources.

Access the report

From May through August 2021, Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) engaged in a comprehensive needs assessment. The purpose of the assessment was to determine how DHS can best address the needs of individuals and families living in poverty and promote stability and economic security using Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) funds and other flexible funding across the agency. The assessment included collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from community members and service providers.

What are the takeaways?

  • Less than half of survey respondents were satisfied with their ability to meet their family’s everyday basic needs.
  • The incidence of poverty varies widely by family structure, race, ethnicity, education and employment. The rate of poverty is more than double the County average among single mothers, Black and multiracial residents, and those with less than a high school degree.
  • Need remains persistently high in McKees Rocks and Stowe, sections of Penn Hills and Wilkinsburg, much of the Monongahela River Valley, and sections of Harrison Township.

What are the Bethesda-Homewood Properties?

The Bethesda-Homewood Properties were subsidized units located in several predominantly Black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh’s East End. In 2017, more than 200 residents of these properties were displaced. A federal subsidy provided to the property owner was being abated because of the owner’s repeated failure to maintain the properties. Residents were effectively forced to move because of the loss of their rental subsidy, but eligible residents were provided housing vouchers and moving cost assistance.

Why did we want to learn more about this housing displacement?

Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) wanted to learn more about the impact of housing displacement on residents of Bethesda-Homewood properties and use the information to inform planning for future mass displacements. This information is especially important in informing racial equity strategies in our region, given that housing displacement disproportionately affects Black residents, with Bethesda-Homewood being no exception.

What did we learn?

In some ways, housing vouchers offered opportunity for residents who moved; displaced residents were theoretically able to choose the location of their new homes. In reality, residents had difficulty finding landlords who would accept their housing vouchers, and the majority of displaced residents continued to live in neighborhoods with relatively high needs even after their relocation. While residents had limited geographic choice when it came to using their vouchers, most were still able to move to neighborhoods with comparatively less gun violence and good access to amenities. Half of those residents who completed a telephone survey reported feeling safer in their current neighborhood.


Related materials

In September of 2020, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and Allegheny County Emergency Services co-convened the Crisis Response Stakeholder Group (CRSG). Comprised of over 30 stakeholders from across the crisis system including representatives from 9-1-1, law enforcement, City and County government, elected officials, foundations, provider agencies and community members, the workgroup was formed to address the overreliance on emergency services for people with behavioral health needs, as well as the racial inequities that persist throughout our crisis system.

The group met regularly to map out the current crisis system and hear from a wide variety of stakeholders, including frontline staff and people in the community. They identified gaps and opportunities within the system and developed a set of 16 recommendations, which was published in February 2021.

Where can I find more information?

Visit the DHS page related to Improving Crisis Prevention and Response.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) overhauled its regulations governing services to people experiencing or at-risk for homelessness. The new guidelines required local agencies operating emergency housing programs to implement a coordinated entry (CE) system to prioritize the most vulnerable clients. The policy emphasized getting clients into stable housing immediately, without preconditions.

While implementing a coordinated entry system was a major shift for Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and its housing providers, they embraced the challenge, seeing an opportunity to improve equity, efficiency and effectiveness in connecting people to housing and other service interventions. The report describes how DHS established a coordinated entry system and is continuing to utilize data to make improvements in housing prioritization.


Related materials

Current report

Allegheny County is committed to allocating criminal justice resources in a systematic way, utilizing evaluation and evidence-based programming to better understand the costs and benefits of various programs. To further this goal, Allegheny County partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice to implement a system of cost–benefit analysis throughout its criminal justice system. The cost analysis includes the cost of an arrest, the cost per day of incarceration or detention, and the cost per day of supervision, including adult and juvenile caseloads, in Allegheny County.

What can we learn from calculating costs in the criminal justice system?

Understanding the drivers of costs within these systems (e.g., changes in population served, changes in operating costs, or both) allows analysts to value the benefits of current and proposed programs. This information is also valuable for policy-makers who can compare the benefits and costs of programs to make informed management, budget and program decisions.

Previous report

Recent national and local focus on Veterans who are experiencing homelessness has led to reduction in homelessness in this population. In order to provide more information about these individuals, this report describes Veterans in Allegheny County who received homeless assistance services at least once from 2014 through 2018, including details on demographics, housing program types and involvement with other County services. In order to sustain progress and to further prevent and reduce Veteran homelessness as much as possible, Allegheny County agencies and community partners will benefit from leveraging data to identify patterns in Veteran homelessness, track outcomes and inform  practices for addressing Veterans’ housing needs.

What are the takeaways?

  • The number of Veterans entering homeless assistance programs in Allegheny County declined by 45% from 2014 through 2018. By contrast, non-Veterans saw slight decreases in program entries.
  • Underlying racial disparities in homelessness persisted among Veterans and non-Veterans alike. More than half of Allegheny County Veterans who accessed homeless assistance programs were Black. This proportion is consistent with the racial demographics of all people (Veterans and non-Veterans) who used these types of services in the region.
  • Veterans who left the homeless system after receiving services were found to be slightly less likely than non-Veterans to re-enter the homeless assistance system, suggesting that they were able to find and maintain stable housing.
Latest report and related dashboard

Each year, Allegheny County participates in a national effort to count the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. The Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count enumerates the sheltered (residing in emergency homeless shelters or transitional housing programs) and unsheltered (residing in places not meant for human habitation) homeless population within the County.

What are the key takeaways from the 2020 PIT count?

  • During the 2020 PIT count, 887 people were found to be experiencing homelessness, which is 113 more people than in 2019.
  • More people were found to be residing in locations not meant for habitation (also known as street homeless) when compared to previous PIT counts. The increase in people in unsheltered locations was likely a result of winter weather being mild and a concerted effort to canvass more areas of the county than in previous years.
  • There were more families with children served in 2020 than in 2019, and the size of these families was also slightly larger (an average of 3.5 people per family in 2020 compared to 3.3 in 2019).
  • There was an increase in the number of households without children (i.e., those not in a family unit), from 535 in 2019 to 617 in 2020.

Previous data briefs

Current report and dashboard

What information about overdose deaths is available?

  • A report describes accidental overdose deaths that occurred in Allegheny County from January 2016 through June 2020 with a look at trends in numbers of deaths, demographics, and substances involved, like opioids and fentanyl.
  • An interactive dashboard provides data from 2008 and allows users to filter data for a closer look at particular years, substance types, demographic groups, and neighborhoods. The dashboard also provides information about fatal and non-fatal overdoses that resulted in hospital emergency department visits or administration of naloxone by EMS.

The report and dashboard are joint efforts of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), present an analysis of deaths resulting from opioid overdose.

How is this data used?

Data on victims and potential risk factors can help County government and other stakeholders implement evidence-based strategies to address the ongoing opioid epidemic. The reports, maps and dataset are provided in an effort to inform and stimulate discussion about substance use treatment and prevention.


Related materials

Previous reports about accidental overdose

Dataset

  • Overdose deaths by Allegheny County municipality: 2008-2014

Maps

What is the Community Need Index?

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) conducts a Community Need Index (CNI) to identify specific areas that are in greater need, and face larger socioeconomic barriers, relative to others. The newest version of the CNI index ranks neighborhoods by need level by looking at:

  • The percentage of families who live below the poverty line
  • The percentage of unemployed males
  • The resident education levels
  • The percentage of single mothers
  • The number of 911 dispatches for gun shots fired

The researchers used a census tract level to break up the region and assess needs. Census tracts are static, relatively small subdivisions of a county.

How can I view the findings?

A storymap presents the findings in an interactive and accessible format. An interactive map allows users to view and extract data from the 2018 CNI. The new report focuses on all of Allegheny County, examines changes in need over time, and places emphasis on the connection between race and community need. Earlier reports are linked below.

What are the takeaways?

  • Levels of need among Allegheny County census tracts have stayed mostly consistent with the previous analysis 5 years ago.
  • 89% of tracts that were high or extreme need within 2009 to 2013 (5-year estimate) were still high or extreme need in this latest report.

How is this report used?

The geographic dimensions of community need can help inform many aspects of DHS’s strategic planning and resource allocation decisions, such as decisions on where to locate Family Centers or new after-school programs.

Where can I go for more information?

For more information, you can read previous reports below. Or you can reach out to DHS-Research@alleghenycounty.us with any questions.


Previous reports in this series 

2014 update (suburbs)
• 2012 update (suburbs)
2000-2009 (suburbs)
2000-2012 (city)

Previous datasets in this series

2014 (suburbs)
2000-2012 (city)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many jurisdictions across the country took measures to reduce their jail populations as a way of lessening the risk of disease spread. This included Allegheny County, which decreased the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) population by considering for release older and health-compromised individuals, individuals sentenced to the jail who could be paroled early, and individuals awaiting trial or probation violation hearings who could safely be released.

This data brief explores the decrease of the ACJ population between March 16, 2020, and June 1, 2020, and the recidivism of individuals released during this period.

What are the takeaways?

  • The ACJ population decreased 30% between March 16, 2020 and June 1, 2020, as a result of both decreased jail bookings and increased releases of eligible individuals.
  • Of those who were released during the early months of the pandemic, most were being held in the ACJ while awaiting a hearing for a County probation violation (34%) or awaiting trial (29%).
  • Many individuals who were released from jail during this period (63%) received support services through Pretrial Services, Re-Entry/Justice Related Services, or Adult Probation.
  • The people released from the jail during this period had a recidivism rate (i.e., a new criminal filing or jail booking within 90 days of release) of 11%. A comparison group of individuals who were released from the jail during the same period a year prior had a recidivism rate of 19%.