Harmonizing databases? Developing a quasi-experimental design to evaluate a public mental health re-entry program

Eval Program Plann. 2012 Nov;35(4):461-72. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2012.02.001. Epub 2012 Mar 3.


Our study is the first-ever initiative to merge administrative databases in Massachusetts to evaluate an important public mental health program. It examines post-incarceration outcomes of adults with serious mental illness (SMI) enrolled in the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) Forensic Transition Team (FTT) program. The program began in 1998 with the goal of transitioning offenders with SMI released from state and local correctional facilities utilizing a core set of transition activities. In this study we evaluate the program's effectiveness using merged administrative data from various state agencies for the years 2007-2011, comparing FTT clients to released prisoners who, despite having serious mental health disorders, did not meet the criterion for DMH services. By systematically describing our original study design and the barriers we encountered, this report will inform future efforts to evaluate public programs using merged administrative databases and electronic health records.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Databases as Topic
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Development / methods*
  • Public Health Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors