For a long time, clinical practitioners relied heavily on their personal instincts and traditional approaches to practice. But, as technology has improved our ability to collect and analyze huge amounts of complex data, evidence-based practice has emerged as the key to delivering human services that improve outcomes.
Evidence-based practice is the integration of clinical expertise, patient values, and the best research evidence into the decision-making process for serving clients or patients. At the heart of evidence-based practice is evidence from clinically relevant research that has been conducted using sound methodology. But, it’s not just about doing what the research says works best. Evidence-based practice combines research evidence, a clinician’s training and experience, and the client or patient’s own preferences, expectations, and values.
With all the conversations happening about how to become an evidence-based organization, it helps to see examples of how organizations like yours have embraced evidence-based practice and see the positive outcomes that come with it.
Looking for resources on how your organization can become evidence-based? Start here with our FREE webinar “Becoming Evidence-Based: a Step by Step Approach”
Hanniff, a longtime resident of South Los Angeles, was in between jobs when his mother suddenly passed away. Her death triggered serious, clinical depression and he was unable to find a new job. He started sleeping on friends’ couches and eventually found himself living in shelters on LA’s infamous Skid Row. Homelessness made it difficult to treat his high blood pressure and kidney disease, and his hope rapidly declined alongside his health. That is until he was referred to the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT).
Based in downtown Los Angeles, SRHT provides permanent housing to people who are experiencing chronic homelessness with mental and/or substance abuse disorders. Their commitment to evidence-based practice is evident in their successful efforts to help the most vulnerable people experiencing chronic homelessness to secure long-term housing, health, and safety.
SRHT is a strong believer in the Housing First Model, an evidence-based model that that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Supportive services and connections to community-based support are then provided so folks keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness.
SRHT’s commitment to the evidence-based Housing First Model comes from their core belief that “housing is a public health issue and that humans have the right not to sleep in the streets, not be exposed to the elements, and to have access to appropriate medical treatment.” Using this model, their Community Initiative for Integrated Care Services program works to house all program-eligible residents as quickly as possible. Once people are housed, SRHT conducts a simple assessment. Participants then meet with their case manager regularly to support their transition into permanent housing and to address current needs. Case managers also support participants by assessing their mental health and substance use and referring them to medical, dental, and legal services they may need.
For Haniff, and so many others like him, this commitment to a strong, evidence-based model means positive outcomes. SRHT reports that, with the foundation of a permanent home and a supportive community, Haniff graduated from L.A. Kitchen’s culinary job training program, and he was recently hired as a prep cook. “It wears you down moving from place to place, and you can’t find a sense of normal. You can’t do anything but exist,” said Haniff. “Now I have a refuge and a routine. With a place to live, I can work towards a better life.”
The DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI), a community-wide partnership funded by federal and private grants, is tackling poverty with over 40 partners that offer services for children and their parents, from early learning programs for young children to workforce development and technical training courses for parents.
In 2013, the DCPNI was awarded a Promise Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Education. They used this grant to research the reasons as to why students in the District of were falling behind in school, and what steps they could take to change it. The Every Day Counts program—a partnership program to increase attendance—was a success. Chronic absenteeism in preschoolers has decreased by 21%, and 10% in students K-5.
The DCPNI’s success and ongoing efforts, like other Promise Neighborhood programs, is built around the evidence-based Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) model. HCZ is a program designed to address the entire range of community needs with a focus on changing the outcomes for children growing up in poverty. The model aims to build a pipeline of services to address children’s needs from birth to college and career. These services are centered in the community, working together to create a supportive neighborhood environment so children will not have the opportunity to get lost in the system or drop out of school. The power of the model comes from a focus on four “Drivers of Success” that anchor the DCPNI’s work:
- Children Succeed in completing a quality education that prepares them for a lifetime career path;
- Parents Succeed in transferring knowledge, skills, values, and wealth to their children;
- Strong Community unlocks families inherent ability to thrive and inspire positive change in their neighborhood; and
- Healthy Places promote residents’ well-being through access to healthy food, recreation, and safety.
The DCPNI supports their evidence-based practice with a heavy focus on collecting and using data in every aspect of their work. They understand that having timely and accurate data to inform service delivery is a critical part of ensuring that each and every resident and student in the community continues to receive high-quality services that improve over time.
Successfully implementing evidence-based practice requires having the right tools, including robust case management systems for integrated data collection and analysis. That’s why Apricot Essentials, Apricot, and Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) are designed with evidence-based practice in mind. Hopefully, these examples will inspire your continued efforts to integrate evidence-based practice into your own programs and push for strong, positive outcomes.