We are fortunate to be involved in a comprehensive evaluation that is focusing on how useful CMHN website is to alums and friends of alums across the nation. Take a moment to read about how we are doing, the changes we have made, our success and challenges – and then give us your feedback!
System of Care CMHN Web Site: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going Now
Communities that have graduated from the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program (also referred to as the Community Mental Health Initiative [CMHI]) grant program funded by the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch (CAFB) within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) comprise a wealth of experience and knowledge regarding the development and implementation of their systems of care. Although “alumni” communities no longer receive federal funds from CMHI, they often wish to remain informed about systems of care and share their expertise and extensive experience to improve functioning in alumni and currently funded system of care communities.
The System of Care CMHN was formed to provide a forum for these communities to share information, connect with other system of care community members, and offer experience-based consultation and education to those interested in promoting the concept of systems of care. Since the creation of CMHN in 2005, its members have participated in numerous system of care grantee conferences, collaborated with program partners on various projects, and compiled a diverse array of resources on CMHN Web site. An initial CMHN effort was the development of a Peer Directory, including a description of each funded program and current contact information for individuals affiliated with the programs. The Director of CMHN, Scott Bryant-Comstock, has facilitated these varied CMHN activities and also serves as administrator of CMHN Web site.
One of the most significant activities for CMHN has been the development of CMHN Web site (www.systemofcarealumni.org), initially launched in 2005. The Web site was designed as a resource by and for alumni, with the format and contents of the site being guided by the needs of individuals from alumni communities. The current version of the Web site was launched in December 2009. Throughout the development process, individuals from alumni and currently-funded system of care communities have provided feedback on the content and format of the Web site, resulting in a valuable networking tool for both alumni and currently funded system of care communities.
This report describes the history of CMHN and the results of a recent evaluation of CMHN Web site. It also presents some of the lessons learned throughout implementation of the Web site and next steps in the ongoing development of the Web site.
Evaluation of CMHN Web Site
The National Evaluation Team completed three main activities during 2008 and 2009 to help inform the ongoing development of CMHN Web site: two discussion groups; a series of review sessions; and compilation of quarterly Web site usage reports. In combination, these activities were aimed at addressing the following questions:
- How many people are using the Web site and what are their usage patterns?
- What are users’ perceptions of the utility and effectiveness of various aspects of the Web site?
- How could the Web site be improved to better meet the needs of users?
Evaluation results indicate that, overall, discussion group and review session participants were enthused about the Web site. They offered many suggestions that were incorporated to further improve specific aspects of the site such as:
- Reorganize the homepage to make it less cluttered, more visually appealing, and easier to navigate
- Rework the main menu options to be more comprehensive and user-friendly, in part by grouping existing items in to fewer categories
- Provide links to existing resources like the CMHI Digital Library, the Technical Assistance Partnership, and www.grants.gov rather than duplicating their efforts
In addition, a quarterly report is produced to describe patterns of use of CMHN Web site. The report contains information about the number of site visitors and registered members, number of page views, average number of pages viewed per visit, average visit duration, and sources of traffic to the Web site. This information is used continually to help guide continuous quality improvement (CQI) efforts for the future development and promotion of the Web site.
Three important lessons learned from hosting CMHN Web site include:
- Staying Focused on the Intent of the Web Site—the Network is dedicated to meeting the needs and pursuing the priorities of system of care alumni.
- Letting Users Shape the Content of the Web Site—instead of a site administrator choosing what might be important, users themselves make the judgment by posting items.
- Promoting the Web Site—be creative in promoting a new resource like CMHN Web site.
Next steps to enhance CMHN Web site include:
- Maintaining the Uniqueness of the Web Site—by remaining focused on the intention for the site to serve as a resource by and for alumni.
- Highlighting Membership Benefits and Making It Easier to Join—by continuing to explore ways to encourage people to become members.
- Promoting the Web Site—by hosting graduation ceremonies and information tables at systems of care conferences, sending out periodic e-mail newsletters and announcements with direct links to the Web site, and having a link posted on other related Web sites.
- Collaborating with National Technical Assistance Providers—by continuing to consult with various national TA providers to identify potential services that could be provided through the Web site.
Soliciting Additional Feedback to Improve the Web Site—by using information from a variety of sources to inform future development of CMHN Web site.