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Helping Pima County Exchange Justice-Health Information: SEARCH Shares Details of Project Success at NIEM in November


In a pilot project supported by SEARCH, stakeholders in Pima County, Arizona, leveraged national standards and practices to improve business processes, policies and technical solutions to conduct medical and health assessments for the 40,000-plus offenders arrested and booked in the county each year. 

What is NIEM?

The National Information Exchange Model is an XML-based information exchange framework. NIEM makes it possible for organizations to share critical data; as a result, people are empowered to make informed decisions that improve efficiency and help organizations advance their missions.

What is GRA?

GRA is an information exchange solution designed to cut 80% of implementation time and costs for state and local justice agencies through reuse of established promising practices in IT architecture and design. It provides guidance for identifying, defining, implementing and governing services.

In order to ensure continuity of care, the county’s adult corrections facility depends on establishing an offender’s treatment service history by obtaining data from community treatment providers. A multidisciplinary Justice-Health Task Team determined that using NIEM and web services that follow Global Reference Architecture (GRA) guidelines could significantly enhance these initial medical assessments.  

The county’s pilot project was funded by SEARCH, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. 

Breaking News!  On Nov. 4, the Pima County project was named a “Best of NIEM” winner for 2014 by Kshemendra Paul, Program Manager of the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE), and Donna Roy, NIEM Executive Director.

NIEM Enables Data Exchanges

Using NIEM, the county established automated information exchanges among the stakeholder agencies’ data systems, accomplished via a new information broker hosted by the county’s IT Department.  The exchange process works as follows:

  • After booking is completed, the Jail sends a notice to the broker.
  • The broker queries the treatment providers’ systems for treatment details of the subject.
  • The broker forwards the query results to the Jail’s health record system, which enables the jail healthcare staff to make proper treatment decisions for the offender. 

This solution enables each agency to keep its own unique and proprietary information system, but use a standard “vocabulary” to share information electronically and translate the content into language each system can understand. 

The system went live on August 15, and encompasses four distinct web services that use the latest version of NIEM—3.0—and adhere to GRA guidelines.  According to the Pima County Office of Behavioral Health, the project has a “tremendous potential” to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of offender services, both in jail and upon re-entry to the community.  The county estimates a potential cost savings of $300,000 annually. 

NIEM in November

To share this NIEM success story, SEARCH is participating in a roundtable panel at NIEM in November, a half-day event on Tuesday, November 4.  The event, being held in Washington, D.C., is also available via webcast.  The event runs from 12:30-5 p.m., EST. 

Mo West

Mo West

The second annual event features presentations, demonstrations, and discussions highlighting the NIEM community’s work, such as that demonstrated in Pima County, as well as the Best of NIEM Award presentations. 

SEARCH Information Sharing Specialist Mo West is participating in the roundtable. He said SEARCH was heavily involved in developing the technical specifications for the Pima County pilot to implement NIEM/GRA among the jurisdiction’s justice and health entities.  SEARCH also helped the county deploy intermediary technology that orchestrated the four web services to accomplish the county’s business objective. 

Other participants at the NIEM community roundtable represent the Department of Defense, the CIO Directorate of Public Safety Canada, and the IJIS Institute.

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