By: Dr. Cheri Shapiro, Director
In December 2017, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) ended its long-standing contract (since 1997) with the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). (This resource was mentioned, along with others, in an earlier blog post). The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Elinore, F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, issued a statement about this decision that included a number of criticisms of NREPP with direction that “…SAMHSA should not encourage providers to use NREPP to obtain EBP’s, given the flawed nature of this system.”
Some of the limitations of NREPP mentioned are accurate. For example, common search terms often do not produce results, and not all EBP’s for mental health or substance abuse are included. However, condemnation of this particular resource needs to be accompanied by a very clear and realistic notion of what registries and compendiums like NREPP can and cannot do, and where these registries and compendiums stand with regard to stages of implementation.
One very important thing to remember is that there are many lists, registries, and compendiums of evidence-based programs, practices, and interventions beyond NREPP (which, to date, is still available but programs will no longer be updated). Other examples include, but are NOT limited to:
- Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development
- California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
- Social Programs That Work
Each of these resources includes different criteria for program review, rating, and inclusion that are important to understand. The primary purpose of these resources is to support providers, families, organizations, and policymakers in obtaining basic information about existing programs and what evidence supports them.
This information is useful and necessary during what is often called the “exploration” stage of implementation. (Please see the National Implementation Research Network site for a full explanation of this initial step necessary for implementing practices supported by evidence.
As providers or organizations, when we desire to implement a program with good evidence to serve our clients, we have a responsibility to research and understand the range of programs that we could use, and to search multiple resources (not just one list, like NREPP), in order to gather information needed to determine whether we move forward with initial program adoption. We need to understand who we are trying to serve, what problems we are hoping to solve, which programs might help us reach our goals, how much do they cost to implement and maintain, and do we have the necessary resources for making this happen? Can we sustain the programs, if we get them started? How can we make course corrections if we are not seeing the results we want to see?
Implementation is a complex problem and identifying a program is the first of many steps as we begin our journey that ultimately leads to program selection and creation of supports to allow us to use the programs as they are intended to be used, and for us to help our clients reach the specific outcomes that they desire and deserve.