Abstract: Collaborative Research-Practice Partnerships: A First Look at the Implementation Evaluation of Connections at Project Harmony (Society for Prevention Research 24th Annual Meeting)

256 Collaborative Research-Practice Partnerships: A First Look at the Implementation Evaluation of Connections at Project Harmony

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Joy M. Ippolito, EdD, Researcher, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Debra Anderson, PhD, Director of Connections, Project Harmony Child Protection Center, Omaha, NE
Alexa Karczmar, BA, Project Assistant, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Introduction: It has become clear that adverse childhood experiences have the potential for lasting harmful consequences on personal wellbeing. These effects can extend through the life span, increasing the probability of a host of negative outcomes, including decreased educational attainment, poorer physical and mental health, and an increase in high-risk behaviors. Recent research has indicated that effective evaluation and outcomes management models, such as those applied to mental health service delivery, should target key decisions in care and be part of a feedback system that provides ongoing information about practice implementation and its effects on outcomes (Fixsen, et al., 2013; Institute of Medicine, 2013).

Methods: This paper presents implementation data from an ongoing evaluation of a new program, Connections at Project Harmony. Connections uses educational and medical settings to elicit referrals for youth in need of mental health care and then connects them with local mental health providers within their community. From the outset, Connections requested a strong, collaborative evaluation partnership that would allow them to improve their implementation on an ongoing basis. Our analyses are thus part of an iterative process whereby we collect and analyze data about the experiences of various stakeholders, including school personnel, district administrators, agency leaders, mental health service providers, parents, and Connections staff. We then share our findings with Connections’ leadership as part of an evaluative feedback loop that seeks to improve implementation processes and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for youth. To date, Connections has served ~300 families. We have collected and analyzed 17 interviews with school and agency staff using a quasi-grounded theory approach and are in the process of collecting and analyzing interview data from an additional 40 parents and 10 Connections staff members.

Results: Using evidence from school and agency interview data, we have discovered that there remains confusion with 1) understanding the purpose of and constraints around the Connections program and 2) the implementation of the referral and service delivery systems. School and agency stakeholders have thus far been satisfied overall with the program, but have highlighted unexpected structural challenges, such as appointment availability, and concerns with engaging parents and families.

Conclusions: This paper sheds light on the transactional interplay of research and practice. By sharing findings with Connections at regular intervals, they are able to inform their ongoing program improvement efforts. The findings also inform the evaluation process, such as guiding successive interview protocols for other stakeholders.