CSAC Bulletin Article

County Officials Come Together for Two-Day Summit Focusing on “Results First”

Oct. 18, 2018

County administrators, probation officers, as well as other public safety and behavioral health representatives from 10 counties across California attended the annual CSAC-Results First summit in Santa Cruz County this week to collaborate on evidence-based policymaking strategies.

“Evidence-based policymaking strategies can help counties identify and fund the most effective programs, ensure that they are implemented successfully, and monitor and evaluate outcomes so they are producing desired results,” said Sara Dube, Director of the Pew-McArthur Results First Initiative.

The Summit brought all 10 counties together to share their successes and challenges in applying evidence into their decision making process. This year’s summit included two new county partners – Alameda and Yolo Counties who have recently partnered with CSAC to apply the Results First approach.  

In March 2017, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, a joint project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, formally partnered with CSAC to support California county leaders’ use of evidence in policy and budget decisions. With additional support from the California Health Care Foundation, CSAC was able to expand its capacity and resources to assist additional counties through targeted technical assistance partnerships and publicly available trainings.

This support has allowed CSAC to expand the Results First approach into 10counties:  Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Nevada, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Ventura and Yolo.  

Together, we help to incorporate the best available research into decisions about program investments. Although it seems simple, the approach takes a significant amount of time, effort and dedication to implement.  

CSAC works closely with each of the 10 partnered counties to ensure that they are supported throughout the process. When a county becomes a partnered county, they begin by conducting an inventory of all programs provided to the adult criminal justice population by the county to address their adult criminal justice population.  

This inventory process is not just creating a list of providers, it also collects other valuable information about the programs, including budget information and whether the program is evidence-based or evidence-informed. To determine whether a program is evidence-based, the county utilizes a clearinghouse database that was built by Pew Charitable Trusts. The county can use the clearinghouse database as a menu of treatment options. Staff then uses the information for a select group of programs to populate the cost-benefit model —which basically tells the county which programs provide is cost beneficial.    

This process is perhaps best illustrated through an example out of Santa Barbara County, which was looking for an evidence-based substance use treatment program that reduced recidivism and substance use. CSAC helped the county with the use of the clearing house database, implementation requirements/potential cost and target population.  

Santa Barbara County staff utilized the benefit-cost model and found that their current program had a return on investment of 50 cents for every dollar invested. This information led them to find a new program that would provide a better return on investment.  

Santa Barbara County is not alone in their success, using the Results First Clearinghouse. Kern County has increased the number of evidence-based jail programs. Before Kern County became part of the Results First partnership, it was not providing any evidence-based programs. County staff used the Clearinghouse Database as a menu approach of treatment options. Kern County jails are now offering seven evidence-bases programs that have been proven to reduce recidivism. 

At the two-day summit held in Santa Cruz, the agenda was chockfull of information designed to make the participating Counties more successful and included expert panels on: (1) building and sustaining a culture of evidence-based policy making; (2) using the new and improved clearinghouse database; (3) using evidence in contracting; and (4) what evaluation data is available.  

The summit also afforded counties the opportunity to learn from each other since each of the counties are at different stages of implementation. Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Fresno and Kern Counties have been part of the program for years and this summit was an opportunity for them to share their experience with newer counties. Counties worked-together to plan and problem-solve together. At any given time, one could look around the room and see representatives from different counties talking and exchanging business cards.

The Results First approach is not only helping counties to make smarter, evidence-informed decisions — but it is also helping counties to forge long-lasting, collaborative relationships. 

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