Use of Pooled State Administrative Data for Mental Health Services Research

Published in: Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, v. 43, no. 1, Jan. 2016, p. 67-78

Posted on RAND.org on February 26, 2015

by Kimberly Hoagwood, S. Essock-Vitale, Joseph P. Morrissey, Anne Libby, Sheila A. Donahue, Benjamin Druss, Molly T. Finnerty, Linda Frisman, Meera Narasimhan, Bradley D. Stein, Jennifer Wisdom, Judy Zerzan

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State systems are a rich, albeit challenging, laboratory for policy-relevant services research studies. State mental health authorities routinely devote resources to collect data for state planning and reporting purposes. However, these data are rarely used in cross-state comparisons to inform state or federal policy development. In 2008, in response to key recommendations from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Advisory Council's "The Road Ahead: Research Partnership to Transform Services, (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/advisory-boards-and-groups/namhc/reports/road-ahead.pdf), NIMH issued a request for applications (RFA) to support studies on the impact of state policy changes on access, cost, quality and outcomes of care for individuals with mental disorders. The purpose of the RFA was to bridge the divide between research and policy by encouraging research that used state administrative data across states, and to address significant state-defined health policy initiatives. Five projects involving eight states were selected through peer review for funding. Projects began in 2009 and were funded for 3 years. This report provides a brief description of the five projects, followed by an analysis of the impact, challenges, and lessons learned from these policy-partnered studies. We conclude by offering suggestions on ways to use state administrative data for informing state health policies, which is especially timely given national and state changes in the structure and financing of healthcare.

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