A Message From the President
In the information age knowledge doesnt mean just power. It means survival itself.
The member agencies of TCA have always had a sizable need for information to satisfy the demands of funding, licensing, and regulatory agencies at all levels of government, assess their own efforts, market their services, build community support, and raise funds. The need has grown over the years, and the pace of growth is now accelerating, reflecting:
* the change from modality-based to fee-for-service reimbursement;
* increased pressure for outcome measures;
* new standards for accreditation and licensing;
* changing treatment demands and models;
* the availability of new information technology.
To help member agencies respond to these needs, TCA is taking part in the National Leadership Institute (NLI) project of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), designed to expand the capabilities of treatment providers and strengthen their competitive position. NLI brings together a partnership of community-based treatment providers, CSAT staff, staff consultants, and experts in business management.
The initial focus of our involvement with NLI, is the development of a TCA data strategy. This was the subject of a workshop held earlier this year, the first of three technical assistance workshops NLI is providing to TCA. Much discussion at the workshop dealt with what kind of information should be in our database, and a prime consideration was the audiences for information. Who wants to know about us and what do they need to know?
It is not only government funding and monitoring agencies that need information about us, so do government planners, legislators and policy makers. Social service agencies and other referral sources should have access to data, as should families, other service providers, and candidates for treatment themselves. Clearly, we also need to know about ourselves. We need to know how we stack up against others in the field. Are our retention rates higher or lower? Are our costs in line with the average for programs like ours?
What data should be in our database? While we neednt share our innermost secrets with the world, we do want to make available data that translates into useful information and can help foster greater knowledge and broader understanding of what we do, where we do it, and how well we do it. Information about individual programs location, capacity, services, admission criteria will do much to assure appropriate placements. While seminal studies (DARP, TOPS, DATOS, CALDATA, NTIES, etc.) provide information about many forms of treatment, our database will focus specifically on therapeutic communities and "best practices" that make evident the growth, progress, and improvement in the field.
For planning purposes, our database should include material on costs, capacity, client characteristics, rates of admissions, and time in program. Analysis of these data will reveal gaps in service, indicate where specific types of treatment might be needed, alert providers to new trends in drug use, and track the incidence of HIV and hepatitis infection in the substance-abusing population. Retention and outcome data will make possible benchmark analysis, (comparison of performances by various treatment providers) for quality improvement as well as for marketing and program promotion.
In collaboration with NLI, TCA is now collecting information for such a database. A pivotal aspect of this effort involves securing information about our member agencies. For this reason TCA sent out a mailing last month, asking member agencies if they had responded during the past three years to the SAMHSA-sponsored Uniform Facility Data System (UFDS), the annual survey conducted by the agencys Office of Applied Studies, which collects information on types of service, enrollment, annual admissions, annual revenue, and funding sources. From those agencies that had responded to UFDS (formerly called NDATUS) we asked for either a copy of their response or TCA permission to access the data from SAMHSA.
As TCA President, I encourage all members to respond to this request. Our database will only be as useful to us as the data it contains. What we get out of it depends entirely upon what we put in.
Copyright © 1999
Therapeutic Communities of America
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