A Sustainable Alternative to the Gold Standard EBP: Validating Existing Programs

  • Pamela Meadowcroft
  • Maria Zeglen Townsend
  • Art Maxwell


Increasingly, jurisdictions are requiring the adoption of certified evidence-based programs (EBPs) for behavioral health and human services for children, youth, and their families. Often, such adoption of proven, prepackaged programs is done without regard to existing, yet effective, locally developed program models. This study presents a replicable six-step process that identifies key researched elements from within existing programs and creates program-specific fidelity scoring and tracking tools for routine use during clinical supervision to assure that these elements are implemented well. A case study is used to demonstrate that a locally developed program model, when implemented with high fidelity, can serve clients with outcomes comparable to its EBP counterpart at a much lower cost. The results underscore the importance of one common element among EBPs and effective services in general: measuring key elements of the service and client outcomes and feeding these data back to clinicians for continuous improvement.



This research was supported by a grant from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services awarded to Wesley Spectrum Services for an evaluation of the WSIH program. The authors thank all of the staff of Wesley Spectrum Services, especially Doug Muetzel (CEO) and Pam Weaver (CPO) and the staff of the WSIH program who worked closely with the evaluation consultants in developing the Model Value Management six steps. We also thank Katy Collins, PhD, who was affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the time of this research, for her work on the cost–benefit analysis of these services. We thank Michele Garrity, also formerly of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, for her final editing. Finally, we thank our Pittsburgh research and community advisors who encouraged this work and support the exploration of credible alternatives to pre-packaged EBP models: Ed Ricci, PhD (University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health; Ed Mulvey, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Marybeth Rauktis, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work; Nancy Kukovich, CEO Adelphoi Village; Rochelle Haimes, COA national consultant; Brandi Mauck, CEO Allegheny Health Choices; Robert Sheen, PhD, clinical consultant; and Laura Maines, CEO, Every Child, Inc.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors served as paid outside evaluation consultants for Wesley Spectrum Services, the case study site for the research reported in this manuscript. They had no role in developing or maintaining the program, serving only as outside evaluators. Despite the active involvement of staff in data collection and discussions regarding the meaning of the information, the authors had full access to all the relevant data and were in no way required to report on findings in a biased manner. None of the authors have had employment or engagement with any of the companies related to the standardized measurement tools referenced in this case study nor with any of the comparison programs cited in this article (e.g., Multi-Systemic Therapy). The authors take responsibility for the integrity and accuracy of the data analysis.


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Copyright information

© National Council for Behavioral Health 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Meadowcroft and AssociatesPittsburghUSA

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