Every year SAMHSA’s Collaborative for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT) and Native American Center for Excellence (NACE) collaborate to offer the Native American Service to Science (STS) Academy to five innovative, community-based substance abuse prevention programs developed by and for Native American peoples. The aim of the Academy is to help local organizations implementing these innovative programs build stronger evaluation capacity to measure program effectiveness.
On April 28–29, thirteen representatives from this year’s programs gathered at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., for the annual Academy, a two-day workshop that introduces participants to the STS process and provides them with eight hours of face-to-face technical assistance (TA) with TA providers highly skilled in evaluation. In preparation, the TA providers previously conducted one-day site visits with their assigned programs to meet staff and partners and learn more about their needs and objectives.
“Through STS, SAMHSA helps local prevention programs better measure and document their impact on substance use and behavioral health in targeted populations,” says Shai Fuxman, Native American STS Academy Lead for SAMHSA’s CAPT. This builds knowledge around effective prevention, which is particularly important in Native communities, where members are disproportionately affected by substance abuse and for whom few established, evidence-based prevention interventions have been developed, he explains.
Following the Academy, participating programs can receive up to 40 additional hours of customized TA. The STS evaluation TA providers help program staff improve their documentation of services, data collection, and data analysis, among other things.
The five programs at this year’s Academy serve Native American communities in four states: Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The programs approach prevention in diverse ways, from developing videos of exemplary community elders sharing their life stories, to offering a 33-week education and skills curriculum designed to interrupt the transfer of intergenerational trauma from parent to child, to teaching at-risk youth their Native language and cultural worldview as a means of building a positive identity and promoting healthy choices.
One Academy participant was Rose High Bear, executive producer at Wisdom of the Elders, Inc., a Native American nonprofit corporation located in Portland, Oregon. Ms. High Bear coordinates her organization’s “Discovering Our Story” program, which is a culturally tailored, multimedia health and wellness curriculum featuring videos of community elders and teachings based on the Native American hero’s journey. Currently, seven partner organizations—each serving a different target population (e.g., youth at risk, adults in recovery, schoolchildren)—are testing the curriculum, each in their own way. The program’s STS evaluation TA providers—one from SAMHSA’s CAPT and one from NACE—worked at the Academy with Ms. High Bear and her Discovering Our Story colleagues to draft logic models for each partner organization. Logic models are visual tools intended to communicate the logic, or rationale, behind a program. In this case, the logic models describe what each partner organization is doing with the curriculum and hopes to achieve. Moving forward, these logic models will inform Discovering Our Story’s overall evaluation design, which must capture the variation in how the partners implement the curriculum and the potential impact of this variation on measured outcomes.
“We let each partner organization create their own design for piloting the curriculum, because they know what their communities need,” Ms. High Bear said. “The Service to Science consultants are helping us develop an evaluation plan that allows us to continue to have that flexibility.”
The other four programs represented at this year’s Academy are:
Following the Academy, each program can receive up to 40 additional hours of individualized technical assistance. Upon completion of the STS process, the programs can compete for mini-subcontracts of up to $30,000 (pending availability of funds) to continue building their evaluation capacity.
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