About Evaluation Briefs

Evaluation Briefs are prepared by the Center for Human Services Research, University at Albany. These are not final analyses. Data collection and analysis are continuing.

For more information about the evaluation program or the data presented in any of the Evaluation Briefs, please contact the lead evaluator, LuAnn McCormick, PhD, at (518)442-5731 or lmccormick@uamail.albany.edu.

SAMHSA System of Care Evaluation

Principal Investigator, LuAnn L. McCormick, PhD, MSW

Family Interviewers:  Liz Cataldo and Corinne Noble

Project Overview

Albany County is one of 126 System of Care for Children’s Mental Health communities, a grant initiative from the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). A system of care is a coordinated network of community-based services and supports that are organized to meet the challenges of children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families. Albany County’s initiative, Families Together in Albany County, is a coordinated effort of Families Together in New York State, Inc. and Albany County Department for Children, Youth, and Families.  

Program Components

Family Resource Centers – Four centers located in rural, suburban, and urban communities supplement the county’s traditional access points – the Children’s Mental Health Unit (CMHU) and Single Point of Access (SPOA)
  • Parent Partners – Family members of children with emotional or behavioral disorders offer support and assistance in service planning
  • Circles of Support – Wraparound meetings with families, providers, and other supports to develop individualized service plans with families 
  • Youth Empowerment Program – Peer support, therapeutic groups, socialization, empowerment, and leadership skill building
  • Clinical Assessment and Services – Provided by clinical social workers at CMHU and the four community-based family resource centers  
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy -- A new component that added to the array of services offered to families, started Fall 2007.

Evaluation Design

CMHS contracts with Macro International Inc. (Macro) and Walter R. McDonald & Associates, Inc. (WRMA) to conduct a national multi-site evaluation of systems of care. There are multiple components of this congressionally-mandated national evaluation, implemented at the local and national levels.  Macro and WRMA conduct national studies on implementation, services and costs, sustainability, and treatment effectiveness.  CHSR conducts the local descriptive and longitudinal studies.  Descriptive Study Demographic characteristics, social and functional characteristics, mental health diagnoses and presenting problems.  Collected on all children/youth entering the system of care  
Data entered into web-based application managed by Macro International Longitudinal Child and Family Outcome Study
  • In-person interviews with a sample of families at intake into the system of care and every 6 months, up to 36 months 
  • Combination of questionnaires and standardized instruments regarding:  Children’s emotional and behavioral status, strengths, educational performance, criminal justice system involvement, living environments, caregiver strain, family functioning, service utilization, and child and family satisfaction with services
  • Convenience sampling to reach enrollment target of 92 families per year
  • Voluntary participation; monetary incentives  
  • Computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) software; data uploaded to web-based database managed by Macro International

Management Information Systems
CHSR supports the project through several MIS applications
  • Tracking System is used to maintain information to contact families for each interview
  • Families Together in Albany County MIS (FTAC MIS) is used at the FRCs to support the administrative, reporting, programmatic and evaluation needs of the project.  The MIS provides automated reports that can be easily displayed and printed, such as tickler reports to remind staff and families when certain assessments need to be scheduled or certain actions need to be taken; mapping reports to provide displays of where providers and families are located; summary reports on the numbers and characteristics of the families who are served; and service provision reports on the units and nature of services provided
  • Cross-System MIS – This is a long-term initiative to coordinate with Albany County MIS departments to integrate the DCYF MIS with the other systems

Current Status of the Local Evaluation
Data collection began January 1, 2006. Descriptive data have been collected on over 1,000 children entering the system of care, and enrollment into the outcome study continues on a rolling basis as families become eligible for system of care services.

Data Collection as of 3/31/08

Data Collection Stats

Data Analysis

To date, analyses have focused on providing data to inform local planning and project implementation, with particular attention to ensuring the proposed target population is being reached. More recent analyses have focused on specific local initiatives. For example, our analysis of trauma-related variables supported the decision to implement the evidence-based treatment, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Project leaders are considering a suicide awareness and prevention initiative; we are analyzing our existing data to determine the extent of the problem in Albany County. Recent debates on over-medicating adolescents have led us to analyze the data for prescription medication use and its correlates to diagnosis and treatment. As outcome data continue to be collected, we will focus on access to and effectiveness of system of care services on child and family functioning and outcomes.

For further information, contact:
LuAnn McCormick, PhD, MSW
Center for Human Services Research
(518) 442-5731


1 Follow-up interviews are completed on an ongoing basis, so the completion rates fluctuate, typically ranging between 68% and 75%.

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