Although most policy makers agree that a fundamental goal of the mental health system is to provide integrated community-based services, there is little empirical evidence with which to plan such a system. Studies in the community mental health literature have not used a standard set of evaluation methods. One way of addressing this gap is through a multisite program evaluation in which multiple sites and programs evaluate the same outcomes using the same instruments and time frame. The proposition of introducing tire same study design in different settings and programs is deceptively straightforward. The difficulty is not in the conceptualization but in the implementation. This article examines the factors that act as implementation barriers, how are they magnified in a multisite study design, and how they can be successfully addressed. In discussing the issue of study design, this article considers processes used to address six major types of barriers to conducting collaborative studies identified by Lancaster or Lancaster's six Cs - contribution, communication, compatibility, consensus, credit, and commitment. A case study approach is used to examine implementation of a multisite community mental health evaluation of services and supports (case management, self-help initiatives, crisis interventions) represented by six independent evaluations of 15 community health programs. A principal finding was that one of the main vehicles to a successful multisite project is participation. It is only through participation that Lancaster's six Cs can be addressed. Key factors in large, geographically dispersed, and diverse groups include the use of advisory committees, explicit criteria and opportunities for participation, reliance on all modes of communication, and valuing informal interactions. The article concludes that whereas modern technology has assisted in making complicated research designs feasible, the operationalization of timeless virtues such as mutual respect and trust, flexibility, and commitment make them successful.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)