Performance Improvement 2001. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)


MISSION: To improve the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services in order to reduce illness, death, disability, and cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses.

Evaluation Program

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is committed to evaluating its overall programs and individual grant projects to assess the effectiveness of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation approaches and systems of care; the accountability of Federal funds; and the achievement of SAMHSA's programmatic and policy objectives.

To the greatest extent appropriate and feasible, SAMHSA encourages the use of comparable data elements and instruments across its evaluations in order to work toward a comprehensive evaluation system and to minimize respondent burden.

SAMHSA conducts grant programs under a variety of legislative authorities. These authorities can generally be grouped into two types: (1) services and (2) knowledge development activity (KDA). The evaluation required for a particular grant program is dependent on the type and purpose of the program. SAMHSA evaluates each of its service programs so as to provide information to program managers about the accountability of Federal funds. In addition, the evaluations of KDA programs will generate new knowledge to lead the field in the development of policies that improve services.

The two types of grant programs (service delivery and KDA) represent the two facets of SAMHSA's mission. SAMHSA's leadership in the field depends on the successful interaction of these two facets. Through KDAs, SAMHSA must identify effective approaches to prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. Through service delivery funds, SAMHSA must provide incentives to the field to implement effective approaches. Major emphases of SAMHSA's mission are to develop, identify, and disseminate effective strategies and systems for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

SAMHSA is implementing an integrated model of evaluation and planning. Strategic planning identifies priorities, such as managed care, that drive the development of grant programs and evaluations. In compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), SAMHSA is improving performance management by identifying annual performance objectives and measures. The formulation of programmatic and evaluation priorities includes consultation with SAMHSA Center Advisory Councils, and with other experts in the fields of evaluation and service delivery. Early and continuous coordination of program planning and evaluation design will result in the articulation of program objectives that may be evaluated. Evaluations will demonstrate the extent to which the grant programs have achieved their overall objectives, and SAMHSA will translate these results into information that can be used for program and policy development. The strategic planning and policy development processes will then use these results to refine SAMHSA's priorities and performance objectives.

This evaluation policy will help SAMHSA achieve its goal of continually informing policy and program development with knowledge culled from past performance. In this way, SAMHSA can best serve its customers by enhancing the quality of publicly-funded substance abuse and mental health services.

In compliance with the Public Health Service (PHS) guidelines for the technical review of evaluations, SAMHSA has established a standing committee of PHS staff who are evaluation specialists. Representatives of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation serve as ex officio members of the committee. The SAMHSA evaluation officer is the committee chair. The committee does not generally review the evaluation proposals of individual grantees; rather, it reviews proposals for broader, more comprehensive evaluations, such as the cross-project evaluations of grant programs.

Evaluation project proposals are generally prepared by SAMHSA program staff in the various Centers. The standing committee reviews each proposal on the following criteria: clarity of evaluation objectives and research questions, appropriateness and feasibility of the specifications for evaluation design and methods, appropriateness of the plans for dissemination of results, and use of previous relevant evaluations and existing program data systems. Each proposal must clearly state the relationship of the evaluation to SAMHSA's overall policies, priorities, and evaluation program.