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SAMHSA News - November/December 2005, Volume 13, Number 6


SAMHSA Report Highlights Outcome Measures

SAMHSA recently submitted a report to Congress that details how the new national outcome measures (NOMs) developed jointly by SAMHSA and the states will create a simple, performance-based, outcome-driven measurement system for SAMHSA's Block Grant programs.

The document is titled A Report Required by Congress on Performance Partnerships: A Discussion of SAMHSA's Efforts To Increase Accountability Based on Performance in Its Block Grant Programs by Instituting National Outcome Measures. The report describes how SAMHSA plans to work with state mental health and substance abuse programs in managing the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.

A key feature in this management approach is a series of outcome measures that focus on 10 domains (see SAMHSA News, July/August 2005). States are responsible for collecting their performance data and providing it to SAMHSA. Federal and state officials will collaborate on data analysis and performance management to improve services for people with mental and addictive disorders.

"The NOMs are one of the first products of SAMHSA's overarching data strategy," said Daryl Kade, SAMHSA Associate Administrator for Policy, Planning, and Budget. "These measures reflect consensus with our state partners. Commitment to implementing NOMs for all states is reflected in SAMHSA's budget, the alignment of our technical assistance activities, and the reports we generate."

Ms. Kade emphasized that both SAMHSA and the states are ready to move forward by collecting outcome and performance data. Some states, however, need technical assistance from SAMHSA to meet NOMs reporting requirements.

"We're trying to match the technical assistance needs of the states with the technical assistance resources of SAMHSA's three Centers and the activities of the State Outcomes Measurement and Management System (SOMMS) Central Services Center," Ms. Kade said.

The SOMMS serves as a central data repository and supports further technical work on standardized definitions and outcomes measures for states. "We are working toward all states being ready to report data by the end of Fiscal Year 2007," Ms. Kade added.

"Establishing outcome measures has not been an easy process for either the states or SAMHSA, and nor has the drafting of the Report to Congress," said Winnie Mitchell, M.P.A., Team Leader in SAMHSA's Office of Policy, Planning, and Budget (OPPB). "The process involved in addressing Congress's requirement ‘to develop plans for creating more flexibility for states and accountability based on outcome and other performance measures' (Public Health Service Act, section 1949 [300x-59]) allowed the Agency to take a hard look at what it really wanted to do, which was to leverage the power of data to better manage SAMHSA's Block Grants. The benefits over the long run will be well worth the time and energy invested in developing a clean, focused, and outcome-driven performance measurement system."

The NOMs is a Web-based tool that uses maps and charts to describe state substance abuse and mental health prevalence, treatment, and funding data. It also provides substance abuse prevention data. As new data are collected, the Web site will generate cross-year data to help users examine program changes over time.

"The first realignment we have made within the Agency is to reduce the data reporting to a single point within each SAMHSA Center," said Sue Becker, M.S., a senior public health analyst in OPPB. "We'll have consistent measures across all of our programs, which will allow us to total up the numbers of persons served by all SAMHSA programs and describe their health outcomes."

Ms. Becker added that the NOMs will enable SAMHSA to assess its progress in meeting the mental health and substance abuse needs of a diverse array of target populations.

For more information, visit SAMHSA's Web site at www.nationaloutcomemeasures.samhsa.gov.

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