Bright Spot: Fresno, CA | Creating a Release of Information

February 28, 2020

Develop a release of information form and data-sharing agreements in order to share identifying information between projects

Check out this Bright Spot if…

  • You want to ensure full VA participation in the coordinated entry process
  • You want to try it!


To ensure full VA participation in the coordinated entry process, the Fresno team (made up of CoC and VA members) put together a Release Of Information on a VA template.

In the beginning, even though there was a go-ahead from VACO, the local VA team felt resistant to share information with community partners.  A major concern for the clinicians was that there would be housing providers who wanted the information in order to discriminate against persons with certain diseases.  Fresno, even though large, is still very conservative.

In response to these concerns, the team used a VA-specific ROI, to which they added 25 Cities Initiative work to the list of those who could read the information.  In order to get it off the ground, Kellie went directly to their privacy officer. She began by asking if they could share information and moved on to asking why they couldn’t, making sure to cite that it was a VA initiative.  

To make sure that the ROI worked out, Kellie reiterated to all of the partners that they would have to proceed with caution, that there would always be information that they wouldn’t be able to communicate, but that they can reach out for help with housing.

Key Action: Remember the Social Work Perspective

The cornerstone of the practice is confidentiality.  For the social workers, when they say they need the ROI for housing purposes, it’s a better practice because they don’t have to worry about confidentiality.  It’s helpful to be able to say, we will only disclose information relevant to housing.  Educate your social workers that you always need to have this in place and then proceed with caution.  

Key Action: Bringing the Leadership Along

When working with the government, the best advice is not to do anything by word of mouth: always show it in writing.

When the case was made to the Medical Director, everything was made simpler. VISN-21 homeless coordinator was hugely instrumental.  Also, some of the community members (Melissa and Doreen) heard that other communities had been able to share information, so there was precedent.