Helping Crime Victim Legal Clinics Help Their Clients by Defining and Measuring for Successful Outcomes

In Focus: Mentoring Youth

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Needs for Law Enforcement


Higher Education: U.S. Department of Education Should Improve Enforcement Procedures Regarding Substantial Misrepresentation by Colleges

Caring Campus: Faculty Leadership in Student Success

Vermont Early Care and Education Financing Study


Mandatory Seatbelt Laws and Traffic Fatalities: A Reassessment

How Better Payment Systems Can Improve Public Transportation

Case Study: Upskilling Around Automation at The Hartford


Problems Paying Medical Bills: United States, 2021

Expanding Access to and Use of Behavioral Health Services for People At Risk for or Experiencing Homelessness

Mothers’ Mental Health Challenges Predated the COVID-19 Pandemic

Customer Service Experiences and Enrollment Difficulties Vary Widely across Safety Net Programs

January 20, 2023


Federal law and the legal system have long recognized crime victims’ rights. Starting in the 1970s, legal clinics and other victim services emerged to safeguard those rights. The federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004 spelled out the rights of crime victims and provided resources to protect them. Before that, the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 required federal agencies to give best efforts to ensure that crime victims are treated with fairness and respect and protected from those who victimized them, among other rights. Most states have adopted their own crime victim protections. New research supported by the National Institute of Justice identifies a model process to help crime victim legal clinics refine their operations in ways that can work best for clients. The study also offers a roadmap for evaluating whether and how case outcomes are benefiting their crime victim clients in meaningful ways. Developing more effective legal clinics for crime victims requires first understanding what program elements are needed and what success would mean for each client. Rarely do victims of crime experience clear-cut victories through the court, and in many cases, success takes on more intangible forms, like feeling respected by the system and having greater trust in the legal process. The researchers tested the conceptual model at three clinics, helping to build a better foundation for determining and monitoring that legal clinic’s fidelity to the model. The formative evaluation also assessed each of the three clinics’ overall readiness for the next phases of evaluation, including a formal process and outcome evaluation to determine whether each clinic was ready and able to assess the degree to which program activities are being implemented as intended and the program is achieving intended outcomes for victims.

Source: Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice

This January 2023 issuereports on the funding and technical assistance being provided by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for youth mentoring programs, which provide participating youth a relationship with a caring adult who can provide the youth guidance and support. From 2017 through the first half of 2021, OJJDP-funded programs recruited 143,000 new mentors and served over 971,000 youths nationwide. Through the Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative, OJJDP funds one-on-one, group, and peer mentoring services to youth who are at high risk for involvement with the juvenile justice system, including youth impacted by opioids and those on probation. In addition, grants awarded under this program enable mentoring organizations to provide comprehensive support services and interventions for youth who are at risk of or who are victims of child sexual exploitation, domestic sex trafficking, or labor trafficking. Between Fiscal Years 2020 and 2022, OJJDP awarded more than $262 million to increase mentoring opportunities for youth and to improve the quality of the mentoring they receive.

Source: Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

The advent of blockchain-based technologies has opened a new frontier for individuals wishing to conduct financial and other transactions remotely, anonymously, and without the need for a third party like a bank. Blockchain technology has various uses but is perhaps best known as the foundation for a certain type of digital currency called cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is increasingly an accepted form of payment in many legitimate business transactions, but it is also used to facilitate many illegal activities, in large part because of its capacity to facilitate mostly anonymous transactions remotely. As a result, law enforcement investigators need to develop new skills, competencies, and tools for ensuring justice. Researchers conducted a workshop with law enforcement practitioners, academics, and other experts. Workshop participants identified and prioritized 24 research and development needs that, if invested in, would improve law enforcement's ability to adapt to these societal changes. These needs pertain to policies for digital key management, resources for law enforcement training on blockchain and cryptocurrency, and tools for investigations involving cryptocurrency. In this report, the researchers detail the proceedings of the workshop, discuss the ten highest-priority needs identified by the participants, and provide additional context based on the participants' discussions. The participants prioritized needs associated with raising the level of knowledge for officers and investigators, training or hiring experts who can assist with investigations, and adapting existing policies and procedures to ensure that cryptocurrencies are handled responsibly. A major finding from the workshop is that there are not enough law enforcement–specific blockchain and cryptocurrency training and experts to meet the demand for educating justice practitioners. Recommendations include identify best-practice policies and procedures for handling, storing, transferring, and redacting digital cryptocurrency keys within record-management systems, and to develop regional or national sharing systems that facilitate sharing of training materials and actionable intelligence for ongoing cases.

Source: Rand Corporation


Substantial misrepresentation occurs when a college makes certain false or misleading statements—or omissions—about its programs, costs, or graduate employment, that students or others could rely on to their detriment. The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for enforcing a prohibition against colleges making these types of statements, when it determines they meet the definition of “substantial misrepresentation”. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the department’s oversight and enforcement of this prohibition. The GAO analysis showed that the department imposed penalties for substantial misrepresentation on 13 colleges from Fiscal years 2016 through 2021. Penalties included ending their participation in federal student aid programs or levying fines. However, the department has not completed written procedures for investigating colleges and has not updated its written procedures for imposing penalties for substantial misrepresentation. The GAO recommends that the department (1) complete written procedures for substantial misrepresentation investigations, including for selecting colleges and conducting investigations; and (2) update written procedures for imposing penalties, as appropriate, on colleges that engaged in substantial misrepresentation.

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

Using interview, survey, and other data gathered from several colleges through virtual site visits, this report discusses early implementation and outcome findings from a study of the Caring Campus/Faculty program conducted in 2020-2022. Caring Campus/Faculty is currently implemented in 28 colleges nationwide, and brings together a group of college faculty and involves them in coaching sessions during which they identify behavioral commitments that can be employed in the classroom to increase students’ connection to the college. These faculty then engage with other instructors at their college to expand the number who are willing to employ the commitments. The report findings indicate that Caring Campus/Faculty has the potential to provide meaningful support to students who may need help and encouragement to persist in college. Such support may be crucial for students of color, first-generation students, and low-income students to navigate college well. The findings also suggest that Caring Campus/Faculty is becoming a key avenue for faculty to take leadership in student success efforts and that it is working to support faculty as they seek to improve their ability to teach and support students.

Source: Community College Research Center

Stakeholders in the public and private sectors in Vermont have been increasing the state's investments in high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs for children not yet in kindergarten. Yet many families are not reached by the funds currently available, especially to afford care for infants and toddlers. Additionally, the ECE workforce has long been underpaid, both in terms of cash wages and benefits. Further expansion of public funds to ensure that young children can participate in high-quality ECE in the mixed-delivery system (both public and private providers) requires an understanding of the cost of high-quality ECE, what is a reasonable contribution families can make to the cost of the ECE they consume, and the potential public-sector revenue options to fill the gap. Vermont Act 45, passed in 2021, expressed a need to support Vermont's economy by providing access to high-quality ECE and ensuring that the state's early educators are fairly compensated and well supported. The act included a requirement for a financing study. To meet this requirement, the authors estimate the cost for high-quality ECE in Vermont using a mixed-delivery system. In addition, to understand the size of the funding gap that must be filled to expand subsidies to more families, the authors consider several designs for a sliding-scale subsidy schedule. The authors also identify a set of feasible and stable revenue streams that can be used alone or in combination to fill the funding gap and employ a series of economic models to estimate the net fiscal and economic impact of the effects of the increased subsidies and the identified revenue. Key findings include that about 60% of families with pre–school-age children have family income below 3.5 times the federal poverty level, the maximum income that currently qualifies for ECE subsidies, and that about $162 million of the $645 million total cost would be paid by families with incomes of more than 5.0 times the poverty level, a group that would not be subsidized under these schedules.

Source: Rand Corporation


Using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the period 1983-1997, previous work found that mandatory seatbelt laws were associated with a 4%-6% reduction in traffic fatalities among motor vehicle occupants. After successfully replicating the two-way fixed effects estimates in prior work, the authors (1) add 22 years of data (1998-2019) to capture additional seatbelt policy variation and observe a longer post-treatment period, (2) employ a interaction-weighted estimator to address potential bias due to heterogeneous and dynamic treatment effects, and (3) estimate event-study models to investigate pre-treatment trends and explore lagged post-treatment effects. Consistent with previous work, these updated estimates show that primary seatbelt laws are associated with a 5%-9% reduction in fatalities among motor vehicle occupants. Estimated effects of secondary seatbelt laws are smaller in magnitude and sensitive to model choice.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Digital transactions offer the opportunity to move money faster, cheaper, and more conveniently for customers and businesses. However, the current system has a cost structure that is expensive for digital micro-payments, which are small dollar payments. Furthermore, digital payments require accessing digital currency which is easy for the wealthy but can be expensive for those with less income. Finally, digital payment acceptance is fragmented, cumbersome, and slow, creating delays. Transportation technology is rapidly evolving in a direction that involves greater use of micro-payments which exposes many problems in America’s payment system. This paper lays out the challenges inherent in scaling up open payments in the public transportation context and begins to outline potential paths for solutions. The paper provides an overview of the current landscape of transit payments and the specific issues involved in moving toward open payments from the perspective of public transit agencies. The paper concludes with a potential path for solutions, including steps such as providing lower interchange costs for transit in debit and credit card systems and considering a broader set of factors when transit agencies make decisions to move from closed loop systems like prepaid fare cards to open loop systems which are directly connected to personal accounts such as credit or debit cards.

Source: Brookings Institute

The Hartford is a Fortune 500 insurance and investment company headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut, which employs more than 18,000 people company wide. It has a large workers’ compensation business, ranked 2nd in the nation based on direct written premium.. Workers’ compensation is insurance that provides coverage in the form of cash payments or medical care for workers who are injured on the job. Recently, the company discovered that a significant proportion of claims that were made through the workers’ compensation department were relatively simple claims that required only coverage for medications or medical care and not more complex areas such as lost wages or time off work. This area represented a prime opportunity for automation, where work previously done by a claim administrator would instead be automated using custom-build computer algorithms, freeing up staff members to do more complex work. They determined that some claims processes could be automated, eliminating multiple human touchpoints without sacrificing compliance or customer outcomes. As with other automation efforts, artificial intelligence (AI) often creates significant financial returns and efficiency gains, giving work previously done by humans to a machine. Unlike many automation efforts, though, The Hartford did not find savings through eliminating workforce. Rather, they took the opportunity created by the automation and reformed roles to fill different business needs, enabling the entire workers’ compensation department to handle more, and more efficiently. While bottom-line results are still being determined, the company is handling more claims, and more efficiently than before, with workers empowered to use their new skills. It is also a positive story, where staff members kept jobs that were enhanced rather than replaced by automation.

Source: Aspen Institute


This report presents national estimates of people living in families having problems paying medical bills by selected sociodemographic and geographic characteristics, including sex, race and Hispanic origin, family income, health insurance coverage status, education level, urbanization level, region, and state Medicaid expansion status. Data from the 2019, 2020, and 2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) were used to estimate short-term trends in problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months. Data from the 2021 NHIS were used to describe estimates of people who were in families who have problems paying medical bills by selected sociodemographic and geographic characteristics. Overall, the percentage of people who were in families having problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months decreased from 14% in 2019 to 10.8% in 2021. In 2021, males (9.7%) were less likely than females (11.8%) to have problems paying medical bills. The percentage of people who were in families having problems paying medical bills was higher among children aged 0–17 years (11.5%) and adults aged 18–64 (11.3%) than adults aged 65 and over (7.7%). Among people under age 65 and those aged 65 and over, the percentage who were in families having problems paying medical bills varied by health insurance coverage status, family income, and state Medicaid expansion status.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics

This guide highlights strategies for behavioral health and housing providers to conduct outreach and engage with individuals experiencing homelessness, initiate use of behavioral health treatment as they wait to receive stable housing and retain them in their recovery efforts once housed. The guide focuses on five programs and practices that have demonstrated success in improving mental health and substance use outcomes during the often-lengthy period of homelessness prior to housing placement. These practices include medications for opioid use disorder, motivational interviewing, intensive case management, community reinforcement approach, including adolescent community reinforcement approach, and peer support. The guide includes both the evidence of the impact of these interventions and specific strategies for providers, staff, and organizations to consider when implementing them. Specifically, the guide notes that organizations should consider engaging community partners, securing sustainable funding streams, building a strong workforce, reducing barriers to treatment engagement and retention, and evaluating effectiveness.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for American families with children. The children’s mental health crisis, caused by school closures, social isolation, grief over lost community and family members, and challenges accessing needed care as contributing factors. Parents, and especially mothers, have also borne significant caregiving, health, and health care access burdens that likely contributed to observed increases in mental health challenges since the pandemic began. Women and mothers were already facing significant mental health challenges before the pandemic, and those challenges are likely to persist and evolve as the most acute pandemic stressors subside and new threats to women’s health and well-being arise. To better support the mental health and well-being of mothers and children in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is important to understand the patterns that existed before the crisis. This report analyzes national patterns of self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression among custodial mothers of children younger than 18. The authors found that in 2019, 13.5% of mothers ages 19 to 64, or about 4.9 million mothers, reported symptoms of moderate or severe anxiety, and 4.8%, or about 1.7 million mothers, reported symptoms of moderate or severe depression. About 1.2 million mothers experienced both moderate or severe anxiety and depression. The findings indicate that many mothers reported symptoms of anxiety and depression even before increases in the stressors facing American families, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors conclude that mental health coverage could be improved with changes to network adequacy standards, provider payment rates, covered benefits and cost-sharing policies, and scope of practice regulations; enforcement of mental health parity regulations; and increasing the size of the behavioral health workforce. In addition, broader policy interventions including universal early education and care, paid parental leave, pay equity, and flexible workplace policies could help relieve some of the social factors that can contribute to maternal anxiety and depression.

Source: Urban Institute

Applying for federal safety net programs is often confusing, burdensome, and stigmatizing for families in need of immediate assistance to access food, housing, health care, and other essentials. This brief used nationally representative data from the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey to examine the customer service and enrollment experiences of nonelderly adults who reported their families applied for or participated in one or more safety net programs in 2021. The authors also examined experiences with the two programs with the largest enrollment, Medicaid/the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), among groups that have experienced long-standing inequities by focusing on differences by race, ethnicity, disability status, and history of diagnosed mental health conditions. Customer service and enrollment experiences varied widely across programs. For instance, the share of adults reporting that program staff never or only sometimes treated them or their family members with courtesy and respect was highest for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and unemployment insurance (41.0% and 38.2%, respectively) and lowest for Medicaid/CHIP (18.1%). More than 4 in 10 adults reported one or more enrollment difficulties with unemployment insurance, TANF, and SNAP, such as trouble with determining eligibility, providing required documentation, and getting benefits when needed. About 3 in 10 adults reported enrollment difficulties for Medicaid/CHIP, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and rental assistance programs.

Source: Urban Institute

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