Substance Abuse Treatment Agencies Improve Functioning Through Organizational Development

Evaluating an initiative to improve the performance of substance abuse treatment organizations

The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and RWJF co-funded an evaluation of the Building Effective Substance Abuse Treatment (BEST) Initiative. Joseph Guydish, PhD, of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California at San Francisco directed the evaluation.

BEST was an initiative of the Schwab Foundation designed to improve substance and alcohol abuse treatment through investments in the organizational development of treatment agencies. The initiative included an assessment of and planning process for treatment agencies, system improvement projects and a learning community of treatment agencies.

Evaluation Findings

  • At 24 months, most agency directors reported that they had implemented system improvement projects. Results of these projects included:
    • Forming a board of directors
    • Developing a strategic plan
    • Creating a website for the agency
    • Reorganizing the leadership structure
    • Developing a donor database
    • Upgrading computer systems and software.
  • Agency staff reported substantial improvements in organizational functioning over the course of the projects. Staff reported some overarching improvements even though individual agencies implemented different projects:
    • Reduction in training needs
    • Increased awareness and understanding of the agency's long-term goals
    • Improved staff solidarity, communication and cooperation
    • Increased access to computers and data management systems
    • Greater awareness of the importance of training and staff development.