The perfect blend of science and impact
Deborah Gorman-Smith, PhD, Director, Academic Center for Excellence in Violence Prevention, IJR
Policy is too often based more on personal beliefs than on research. IJR is working to change that by building bridges between research, policy, and practice. IJR’s Deborah Gorman-Smith works with the Center for Evidence-Based Policy in Washington to educate federal policymakers on the value of using scientifically proven approaches to treating children’s mental health. “This mission evolved from prevention work,” she says. “We saw a lot of need but little research about what could work, and many programs that we knew weren’t effective. We wanted to figure out how to change that.”
One way is to educate policymakers on how research can provide reliable evidence for policy. Another is to influence how federal funding formulas are organized and distributed.
“We’re trying to find the levers to change the way people think about getting and using evidence on what works,” says Gorman-Smith.
That might mean, for example, crafting language in federal funding proposals to demand more rigorous methods of evaluation—something that’s rarely done.
“IJR has been promoting the importance of evidence- based policy for several years and we’re seeing progress in those efforts. At first it was hard to get in the door. Now our workshops for federal agency staff are sold out. We’re also creating help desks for implementing these approaches.
“Hopefully we’re building a culture that values good research and good programs,” says Gorman-Smith. “It’s the perfect blend of science and impact. Through this work, we’re increasing funding for research and science plus disseminating information on the programs that work.”
We need to move beyond just working to do good. We need to focus on what really makes a difference. −Carl C. Bell, MD, IJR Director
IJR-DCFS Partnership Improves Care
IJR’s impact on policy and system change is perhaps no more evident than in its work with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, which protects children who have been abused or neglected.
IJR works with DCFS to ensure that these children receive only the best mental health care by:
- Providing in-depth assessment, stabilization, and crisis intervention for the most vulnerable children—those who have bounced through multiple foster homes and residential settings and who have hospitalized multiple times. Because of our efforts, we’ve seen a 50% decrease in number of hospitalizations and number of hospital days. The program has paid for itself in six months,” says Dr. Michael Naylor, Director of the Division of Child andAdolescent Psychiatry and the Division of Behavioral Health and Welfare Program at IJR.
- Advising on all prescriptions for mental health issues—more than 13,000 request each year—and providing oversight for statewide pharmacology practices.
- Advancing mental health policies and programming by identifying residential treatment facilities or group homes facing significant problems and helping DCFS to improve or shut them down.
- Developing data systems to better monitor and support children while in care.
“With these efforts, we’re able to make a big impact on both the system and the lives of a lot of kids,” says Naylor. “We help give them as close to normal a childhood as possible.”