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Evaluating Programs To Prevent Drug Misuse


  • Strong data collection and program engagement are critical keys to effective prevention programming.
  • Abt evaluated SAMHSA’s drug prevention framework and helped make data understandable and accessible.
  • Abt collected, analyzed, and synthesized data and improved data quality.
The Challenge

As the opioid crisis and misuse of prescription drugs continue, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) wants to ensure its investments in states, tribes, and their grantees created effective prevention programming to target prescription-drug and opioid misuse. SAMHSA tapped Abt to serve as its national evaluator of the Strategic Prevention Framework for Prescription Drugs (SPF-Rx) and to redesign its data collection approach and system. Challenges included the need for better engagement with busy grantees, the need for quality data collection across sites, and the variety of data available for outcomes and impact reporting.

The Approach

Abt collected data annually from 25 grantees and their 120 sub-recipients from the Administrative Implementation Instrument, a grantee interview, and the program Outcomes Module. Abt helped grantees improve data collection by providing a direct point of contact and easy-to-use feedback forms. The forms enabled grantees to quickly recall their data submissions, track progress, and use key metrics for their own reporting purposes. Abt also cleaned, analyzed, and reported grantee findings.

The Results

Over the course of the project, Abt collected and analyzed data from all grantees and sub-recipients of the SPF-Rx Program. Abt designed and instituted the role of dedicated site liaisons as direct contacts to assist grantees in their understanding of the project and data collection. The Abt digital and data services team also developed a new user-friendly outcomes data entry system. Strong and productive working relationships and systems improvements resulted in improved data quality and depth. Data feedback forms were returned to the grantees serving as the basis for follow up analysis, conversations about anomalies, and grantee training for future data collection.

As the SPF-Rx grant program moves into the future with new grantees and subrecipients, select outcome recommendations to make data maximally useful to state, local, and federal policymakers include:

  • Reduce the reporting burden for grantees and subrecipients by removing often missing or unavailable data requirements.
  • Return annual data to grantees in simple, attractive formats to distribute to stakeholders.­­
  • Collect parallel data from non-SPF-Rx areas for informative outcomes and impact analysis.
  • Direct grantees to additional resources on effective prevention strategies, including evaluation studies, federal registries, and other expert consensus on evidence-based programs, policies, and practices.