The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Alabama
In August 2017, members of the executive and legislative branches in Alabama issued letters of support for partnering with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. In her letter, Governor Kay Ivey noted the partnership as an opportunity for Alabama to “take a closer look at state programs and allow data driven policy priorities and decisions.” Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon echoed these sentiments, viewing the partnership as “an exciting opportunity for the State of Alabama to begin to base its budget and policy decisions on data-driven analysis.” These elected officials expressed their commitment to wide implementation of the Results First approach, beginning with adult mental health programming.
The Legislative Services Agency (LSA), with contributions from the Alabama Department of Mental Health, analyzed 52 programs within the state’s adult mental health continuum of care. LSA issued a report that examined the evidence base and return on investment of eight of the adult mental health programs. Steered by these findings and by lessons learned about inventories and assessments of agency programs, the Legislature sought to further solidify evidence-based policymaking through the passage of Act 2018-578 in April 2018.
Senate Joint Resolution 77 urges 10 leading state agencies to prioritize evidence-based principles by defining key terms, completing an inventory of programs that consider research and evidence, and assessing the programs’ annual costs and benefits.
LSA established the Alabama Support Team for Evidence-Based Practices (ASTEP) to implement S.J.R. 77 in phased approaches. ASTEP will work first with the five health and human services agencies that are among the top recipients of money from the general fund: the Department of Mental Health, Alabama Medicaid, the Department of Human Resources, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Senior Services. Agency staff will work closely with ASTEP and Results First to gather the data needed to create a comprehensive inventory of programs within each agency and assess their level of evidence.
After completing program inventories for the initial five agencies, Alabama plans to focus on implementing the resolution throughout the 10 state agencies. These expanded efforts also include taking a broad view of currently funded programs across health and human services-related agencies to better identify potential gaps or overlaps; communicating the analysis to policymakers; and leveraging the Results First approach to make informed decisions.