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Evaluation of Racial Equity Here, a National Initiative to Build the Capacity of Municipal Governments to Promote Equity

A thriving democracy requires municipal governments to be able to set the stage for achieving racial equity because they have power and influence, especially if they work in partnership with other organizations and leaders to leverage and expand opportunities and resources for the places they govern and the communities they serve. Living Cities and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE—a project of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at University of California-Berkeley and the Center for Social Inclusion) have joined together in an effort, Racial Equity Here, to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all in five cities: Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville, and Philadelphia. City government leaders in these cities will complete a racial equity assessment of their core government operations, with an intentional focus on adults and youth of color, ages 16 to 24. Over a two-year period, the five municipal governments will receive training and technical assistance from GARE to develop a blueprint of government-wide strategies and begin execution of the blueprint by applying the skills, tools, and processes they developed through assistance from GARE.

Community Science, in partnership with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, has been engaged by Living Cities to evaluate Racial Equity Here.

“Living Cities is incredibly excited to partner with Community Science and the Insight Center to undertake this important project. They are real innovators in the evaluation racial equity and inclusion space and we look forward to partnering with them and ultimately sharing lessons from the work with the field,” states Daniela Pineda, Associate Director, Evaluation and Impact, Living Cities.

Community Science is working closely with the Living Cities and GARE staff to design an evaluation framework that will capture and document the change process and outcomes in each of the five municipal governments, and identify the common and unique circumstances that affected their pathways of change towards equity. The evaluation will help generate rich insights about the capacities and conditions required to effect systems change at the city government level as well as the supports needed to aid the process.

Assessment of a Federal Policy to Reduce Behavioral Health Disparities

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary’s Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities included a priority to assess and heighten the impact of all HHS policies, programs, processes, and resource decisions to reduce health disparities. An action to support this priority is the recommendation that HHS program grantees submit health disparity impact statements as part of their grant applications. In response, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Office of Behavioral Health Equity developed a strategy to reduce behavioral health disparities, which included the requirement of a Disparity Impact Statement (DIS) from grantees. In their statements, grantees are expected to describe how they would determine, analyze, and ensure access to, use of, and outcomes from behavioral healthcare services and activities for disparate subpopulations (i.e., vulnerable groups of people within larger populations of focus who experience disparities).

Community Science was engaged by SAMHSA to assist with advancing the implementation of the agency’s policy of requiring a DIS from grantees by:

  • Developing an approach to determining the problem and solutions for addressing behavioral health disparities and eventually, elimination of such disparities. The approach is aimed at assisting service providers, technical assistance providers, state and local agencies, and other types of organizations to consider how to go about analyzing the nature of the behavioral health disparities affecting the people they serve, the contributing factors, and the appropriate solutions that are sustainable and meet the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards.
  • Developing, testing, and implementing a framework and strategy for assessing a sample of DISs in order for the agency to have baseline data about how the DIS requirement was understood and operationalized by grantees during the pilot phase. Based on findings from the assessment, Community Science will design a searchable database for SAMHSA to support future standard and ad hoc analyses to continue to monitor and inform the policy’s implementation.

This project provides Community Science with the opportunity to reflect on how service providers and state agencies understand the individual, organizational, and systemic factors that affect behavioral health outcomes of people and communities that experience disparities and inequities, and use data to inform their interventions.

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