Training first responders to recognize and respond to signs of mental illness. An integrated health center for at-risk LGBTQ youth. Peer recovery coaches to help parents address substance use disorders and reunite with their children in the foster care system. These are just a few of the projects we heard about last week, when we gathered in Lansing with grantees from the Health Fund’s 2016 Behavioral Health program.
We know from our work on the grantmaking side that many grantees from the 2016 behavioral health round are facing the same types of questions: How do we bill for this innovative service that doesn’t match an existing insurance code? How can we create a seamless experience for patients? How can we measure savings if our costs are increasing but we’re saving money for another part of the health system, or another system altogether?
They’re not the kinds of questions you can answer in a few hours, or that a funder can answer for its grantees. But learning how someone else tackled a billing or recruitment issue? That can help immensely.
The first part of the convening was set aside for grantees to learn about each of the other projects, followed by smaller, structured group discussions. By providing a space for organizations and practitioners to make connections, we’re hoping to inspire ongoing conversation around shared interests: persistent challenges, surprising pathways to success, and opportunities for collaboration.
The second part of the day was dedicated to evaluation. The projects share some common themes—workforce development, integrated care, an emphasis on children or seniors—but they span various topics, communities, and theories of change.
With such a diverse group of grantees, we can’t evaluate our own work by simply asking whether we’re moving the needle. Instead, we must grapple with questions like what does the needle look like, and how will we know when it’s moving?
To that end, we reviewed a proposed evaluation framework, which was developed after individual grantee consultations but in consideration of the entire cohort. Grantees reacted to the draft with insightful observations and questions, and their feedback will help us hone our evaluation approach and metrics.
Our grantees weren’t the only beneficiaries of the day; we learned as much from them as they did from each other, and we’re grateful for their engagement. We look forward to learning more at future gatherings for our other programs and grantees. Stay tuned for dispatches from those events later this year.