Evaluations of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Programs in San Mateo County, CA

In a large and diverse state like California with more than 39 million people, there is a growing need for high-quality, affordable, and accessible behavioral health care services. About 1 in 5 California adults (21.2%) reported needing help for emotional/mental health problems or misuse of alcohol and/or drugs in 2018, according to the California Health Interview Survey.

To help meet the needs of vulnerable residents, San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) engaged AIR to evaluate BHRS’s programs, provide state required reporting, and present findings with the goal to improve services. Currently in year 7, AIR conducts multiyear evaluations of county programs, including the integrated medication-assisted treatment program, the full-service partnership program, a wraparound care model, and assisted outpatient treatment program, also known as Laura’s Law. In 2020, AIR began to provide technical assistance and evaluation support to increase school capacity to identify and address social-emotional, behavioral, and academic risks and needs of students in eleven school districts and increase the county’s ability to track and report on data related to student outcomes and well-being.

As part of the project, AIR:

  • conducts economic analyses using systematic application of a standard economic evaluation framework and combination of effectiveness and cost data; providing context for ad hoc requests within broader policy so analyses fulfill time-sensitive needs efficiently;
  • generates and presents reports outlining analyses with discussion of results for dissemination; collaborating with BHRS on planning, scoping, and selecting appropriate methods for special projects, such as developing, administering, and analyzing surveys;
  • assesses implementation and sustainability of evidence-based practice through incorporation of fidelity measures into data collection; and
  • conducts qualitative case studies involving site visits and interviews with providers.

AIR works closely with county personnel to develop specific steps to address findings of the analyses.