AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

May/16

15

ADAMH Week: Roger Boothroyd with an Introduction to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health TIG Week

Greetings everyone! – My name is Roger Boothroyd and I’m from the University of South Florida. I have been conducting evaluations on the delivery of mental health services and programs for nearly 30 years, primarily working with government entities. It is my pleasure to introduce the Alcohol Drug Abuse and Mental Health (ADAMH) TIG’s week of contributions to aea365.

I know it is no news to any of you that evaluators often face a range of challenges evaluating behavioral health programs. For example, limited funds to support the evaluations, unrealistic timelines, competing political agendas among stakeholders, understanding the program theory of change and/or data issues to name just a few. This week several ADAMH TIG members are pleased to share with you some of the challenges they have encountered during their evaluation efforts and, more importantly, some of the resources, suggestions, and lessons learned that they have to offer to help minimize those challenges.

Lesson Learned: I’d like to begin by sharing one of my thoughts related to politics and evaluation and how the manner in which we present our findings can impact our clients. Evaluators always have the option of portraying findings as signifying the glass is half full or the glass is half empty. Take the following two statement for example:

  • 80% of the respondents reported that the services they received were effective in meeting their needs.
  • 1 of every 5 respondents reported that the services they received were not effective in meeting their needs.

Despite the fact that both statements are functionally equivalent, I think everyone can guess which one would make a better newspaper headline or require some detailed explanation at a legislative hearing.

Hot Tip: Understand that how you phase your findings has a potentially negative impact on your clients.

In working with government entities, I inform my clients that during our work group meetings and on our conference calls we’ll focus on the glass being half empty, because it is on those individuals who are not benefiting or succeeding where we need to focus our greatest attention. However, recognizing that our evaluation findings are a potential newspaper headline, I also inform my clients that when the final report is written and the public briefing is held the results will be presented as if the glass is half full but that when they hear or read this they should recognize the real important message– that the glass is also half empty and more work needs to be done.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Alcohol Drug Abuse and Mental Health (ADAMH) TIG Week. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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