The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in New Mexico

Note: This page was updated in May 2016 and April 2018 to reflect new developments in the state.


The state has been partnered with Results First since 2011, initially through the New Mexico Legislature and then later expanded to include the state Corrections and Children, Youth, and Families departments. The state’s interest in and commitment to using the Results First approach began with the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) staff and elected committee members.

In September 2011, state Representative Luciano “Lucky” Varela, then vice chair of the Legislative Finance Committee, described the initiative as the committee’s opportunity to “advance the use of cost-benefit analysis to inform policy and budget decisions in New Mexico, particularly in the areas of early childhood and criminal justice.” With the committee’s focus on prioritizing state investments in evidence-based programs and the agencies’ dedication to these methods, the state has become a leader in the field of evidence-based policymaking. It has targeted more than $100 million in state resources to effective and cost-beneficial programs that will produce better outcomes for New Mexico citizens. Representative Patricia Lundstrom, current vice chair of the LFC, has also expressed her “continued interest in and support of working with the Results First project to advance the use of cost-benefit analysis to inform policy and budget decisions in New Mexico across various policy areas.”


Beginning in 2011, a team of researchers, led by the Legislative Finance Committee and in partnership with the New Mexico Sentencing Commission, the Children, Youth, and Families Department, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Safety, the Corrections Department, and the Public Education Department, developed the adult criminal justice and child welfare components of the New Mexico Results First model. By September 2012, analysts had reported results for select adult criminal justice programs operated by the Corrections Department and for home visiting programs operated by the Human Services Department. Building on these efforts, the Legislative Finance Committee continued to expand the scope of the model until it had successfully implemented all available components. New Mexico now uses cost-benefit analysis in its program investment decisions for a diverse but interconnected set of social policy areas.

In 2015, Results First began providing intensive technical assistance to executive branch agencies that expressed an interest in embedding evidence-based policymaking into their internal budget and decision-making processes. 

The Corrections Department is building a program inventory of its in-custody, probation, and parole programming, and participating in the Results First stakeholder group. Composed of representatives from the Legislative Finance Committee, Sentencing Commission, Administrative Office of the Courts, and other executive and judicial branch agencies, the working group aims to guide the ongoing development and use of the adult criminal justice component of the model. 


Since 2011, the Legislative Finance Committee has released reports using findings from the New Mexico Results First model on adult criminal justice, child welfare, early childhood education, and substance abuse and mental health programs to supplement evaluation reports and to answer policy questions posed by committee members and other legislators. Key findings included:

  • Reducing recidivism by 10 percent through investment in evidence-based programs could reduce prison costs by $8.3 million and victimization costs by approximately $40 million over the long term.
  • Investment in evidence-based corrections programs proved to reduce recidivism could yield returns as high as $25 for every $1 invested.
  • Evidence-based programs for reducing child maltreatment could generate returns as high as $15 for every $1 invested and reduce child maltreatment and its recurrence by up to 26 percent and 25 percent, respectively. For example, evidence-based home visiting programs, though initially costly, would yield approximately $5 in returns for every $1 invested.
  • Strategic investments in evidence-based early childhood programs could provide a strong foundation for children that will improve their lifelong educational and economic outcomes. These efforts could produce future savings to taxpayers by reducing remediation needs in public education and resource use in the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. The analysis showed that for every $1 invested in an evidence-based Nurse Family Partnership program, New Mexico may expect a return of $10.
  • In a report on children’s behavioral health jointly written by the Legislative Finance Committee and the Human Services and Children, Youth, and Families departments, researchers found that the state spent $30 million in fiscal year 2016 on prevention programs for children, with 82 percent spent on evidence-based or promising interventions used to improve overall behavioral health. Stakeholders are working to develop strategies to effectively leverage available funding to create an integrated behavioral health system that meets the needs of children and families.

Policy impact

Since 2012, New Mexico legislative and executive policymakers have used the state’s Results First analysis to develop and enact several key policy reforms. The Legislature continues to use New Mexico Results First findings to inform program evaluations, legislation, and annual budget recommendations. In the executive branch, in addition to directing internal resources toward evidence-based programs, the Corrections Department has established an agency policy that cements its focus on continued evaluation, performance monitoring, and prioritization of proven programs.

The state has used the Results First approach to:

  • Direct more than $100 million to evidence-based programs that the model shows will deliver high returns for New Mexico residents.
  • Shift funds away from a program that the Corrections Department determined was ineffective to an alternative that analysis showed would produce strong outcomes.
  • Calculate “the cost of doing nothing,” the long-term costs the state will incur if current recidivism trends continue. For example, an analysis of offenders released in 2011 showed that this single cohort will cost the state $360 million over 15 years if current recidivism patterns persist.
  • Develop an inventory of recidivism-reduction programs to identify the extent to which the state is using evidence-based programs.
  • Inform a bipartisan measure, passed by the Legislature in 2015, that targeted the investment of $1 million in behavioral health funds to high-need areas and prioritized that spending on evidence-based programs.
  • Launch a cross-branch effort to inventory and conduct cost-benefit analyses on a number of programs in public health areas, including obesity and diabetes prevention, smoking cessation interventions, and opioid use disorder treatment.

In 2015, the Corrections Department enacted an administrative policy establishing a framework that commits the agency to continually inventory programs, mandates that 70 percent of program funds are directed to evidence-based programs, and institutes contracting standards that require vendors to document the use of evidence-based practices and monitor outcomes for homegrown programs to see that they meet intended goals. In launching the policy, the department has demonstrated a proactive commitment to rigorous, sustainable, and ongoing evidence-based policymaking. 

Next steps

Results First continues to support executive branch agencies as they develop program inventories that assess the level of evidence behind state-funded programs, along with efforts led by the Legislative Finance Committee to refine the model and use cost-benefit analysis to inform its budget recommendations. The state’s Results First work in both branches is centered on their shared interest in maximizing the value of limited financial resources and further incorporating the use of evidence into institutional decision-making processes.

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