RDA’s work touches on the most pivotal issues facing our society today. With our mission-driven focus and strengths-based approach, we undertake projects that have lasting impacts across many public systems. We promote accountability through the use of data for decision-making, and aim to support systems that are trauma-informed and responsive to the unique needs of vulnerable populations. Our staff have backgrounds and expertise in each of the fields listed below and can offer cross-systems support wherever these sectors interact.
We are at a watershed moment in the history of America’s criminal and juvenile justice systems. California has been at the forefront of this shift. As with juvenile justice realignment a decade ago, a series of legislative and policy changes — including Assembly Bill (AB) 109, Proposition 47 and Proposition 57 — have fundamentally changed state and local criminal justice systems. We understand that the primary function of these systems is to promote public safety. However, they should also be seen a last resort, which is why we work to promote treatment and other evidence-based alternatives to incarceration.
Any effort to improve these systems requires collaboration between multiple public stakeholders, including law enforcement and other justice system entities, the other domains listed here, the communities impacted, and those involved with the systems. The changing attitudes and emerging policies surrounding criminal and juvenile justice have energized our work and we look forward to continuing to help build more effective systems.
Behavioral health service systems strive to promote access to needed, effective services for those who need them. By focusing on intervention-based strategies early on, these systems can interrupt or prevent the cycle of repetitive hospitalization, incarceration, and homelessness for the people with the highest needs. More than a decade after the Mental Health Services Act dramatically altered California’s approach to behavioral health service delivery, counties have made progress in developing recovery-oriented services that respond to their communities’ needs. As the landscape evolves, there is a need for continued focus on integration and accountability to strengthen systems and improve outcomes. Accordingly, we work with our clients to implement services that combine existing evidence-based and promising practices with new innovative approaches tailored to their local contexts. Recognizing that resources are increasingly limited and need is ever growing, we also illustrate that targeting prevention is the most humane and cost-effective way to help people.
RDA’s behavioral health work focuses on three primary areas. First, we help our clients to develop programs that respond to their communities’ needs with rigorous, mixed-methods planning and evaluation of assisted outpatient treatment and other approaches. Second, we strive to include the voices of those most impacted by our projects by conducting participatory action research with un-, under-, and inappropriately served populations such as youth and LGBT individuals. Finally, we lead systems-level assessment and planning efforts to help counties align their processes with legislative requirements while targeting their resources to effective programs for those who need them most.
Child welfare systems can best serve the interests of the children and families they serve by aligning policy and practice with research. In recent years, numerous legislative changes including Assembly Bill (AB) 12, Safety-Organized Practice implementation, the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) program, and Continuum of Care reform have increased the need for actionable strategies across systems to improve the lives of those involved in child welfare, including transition-aged youth. As a result, child welfare systems have come together with behavioral health, juvenile justice, education, and other public systems to better ensure the safety and well-being of the children and youth under their care.
At RDA, our strength lies in bringing stakeholders together across multiple public systems to build a practical path forward that is aligned with research and responsive to the shifting legislative environment. Most importantly, we understand that those who work in the child welfare system are driven by their desire to help children. We therefore work to promote systems-level efficiency so that social workers have the resources and supports they need to manage their caseloads and stay engaged in their work.
Everyone should have the opportunity to live a healthy life and access the affordable healthcare they need. As it becomes more widely recognized that good health requires more than primary care, health systems must address all the factors that influence well-being. Poverty, food security, transportation, housing, safety, and more all have significant health impacts. Health care services and the data they generate function at the intersection of so many of these factors, and therefore represent an ideal framework for understanding the human outcomes of our other public systems.
Our work focuses on treating the whole patient through coordination across multiple health and human services systems. Our cross-systems experience informs these projects and guides our clients and their partners toward their shared outcomes. We also work with our clients on better using their own data to understand their community’s specific health needs. We regularly explore the impacts of upstream investments on social determinants of health, including the built environment, justice systems, social services, and more. Our strength is in understanding the intricacies of these many different systems, and in helping our clients target their interventions to promote equity and improve health outcomes for all.
A strong public education system that prepares children for adulthood is a fundamental pillar of our society. Transforming education so that all children can thrive and learn is imperative. In California, recent policy decisions have handed school districts increased local control to target funding decisions to specific community needs. This has allowed districts to focus on the unique needs of their students, including behavioral health services, special education programs, and efforts to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. We work with education systems to maximize limited resources, capitalize on available technology, and design 21st-Century learning programs needed to give students the best chance to succeed, particularly those in persistently underachieving schools.
RDA also works closely with early childhood programs that engage children and their families from birth to help them succeed in school and beyond. Early childhood practitioners emphasize the importance of maternal and infant health, school readiness, and literacy during this most important time of development.
This supports the belief that children need wraparound care. This idea is apparent in the movement toward community schools, which connect students and families to needed health and social services. Our work helps facilitate this collaboration, and we look forward to continuing to work with early child and education systems to enable all children to have a high-quality education in healthy environments.
Adult education, career technical education (CTE), and workforce development offer opportunities to build skills that will help individuals achieve self-sufficiency, academic achievement, and professional stability. As the economy evolves, adult education has become an essential part of workforce development strategies to build a labor pool with relevant skills for emerging and changing industries.
At RDA, we see adult education, CTE, and workforce development as important upstream investments. Employment is a key challenge for many people who are involved in public safety net programs. Because there is a significant overlap in the populations served, we rely on our experience in behavioral health, adult and juvenile justice, education, and child welfare to inform our work in adult education and workforce development. We work with our clients to help them plan for the future, using data to better understand the needs of their target populations and hiring trends in regional industries. We also have a significant understanding of recent policy changes and funding priorities such as the Adult Education Block Grant and Strong Workforce Program, which allows us to help consortia members and other adult education entities collaborate in their work towards a seamless system of educational programs and supports.
Access to safe and stable housing is a basic necessity that underlies all other needs, and which has a significant impact on how public systems can support the populations they serve. We view housing and homelessness as issues that cut across a wide range of public systems including behavioral health, public health, adult and juvenile justice, employment, education, and economic sustainability. With our cross-systems experience, we focus on engaging diverse stakeholder groups to develop collaborative strategies that address the complexities of community housing needs and supportive programming to prevent chronic homelessness.
We understand the range of competing priorities facing public agencies, such as encouraging new development while protecting the number of affordable units, and protecting public safety while ensuring access to supportive services for consumers with high levels of need. Through our inclusive, data-driven approach to planning and decision making, we support our clients’ efforts to address access to housing and, ultimately, to reduce homelessness and strengthen our communities.