As the opioid crisis continues to sweep the nation, many communities have developed innovative strategies to address the issue, such as the implementation of Quick Response Teams (QRTs).
QRTs are an example of the “Naloxone Plus” pathway of Pre-Arrest Deflection, where teams are trained to respond to an overdose event or other addiction-related issues. QRT members work collaboratively with other community representatives to provide outreach to overdose survivors and connect them to treatment, housing, and other resources that will help them through their recovery journey.
Although many communities that have implemented QRTs into their addiction response strategies have found them to be successful, the guidelines for evaluation and implementation are still evolving. Even the definition of success can vary from one team to another. As the field of pre-arrest deflection grows, a critical next step is identifying ways to evaluate teams. This requires a balance between identifying standard data points that let us look across communities, while also understanding that each community varies greatly from the next. A one size fits all approach to evaluation will not be successful, but teams can learn from each other to identify the best strategies for their programs.
In a recent webinar sponsored by the CDC, through Overdose 2 Action (OD2A), panelists from Ohio and West Virginia, both of which have QRTs across the state that are powered by Cordata, shared their approaches to evaluation. They were joined by panelists from Michigan Overdose Data to Action (MODA) and Western Michigan University Evaluation Center. Here are five key takeaways from the conversation:
 Very often, evaluations of QRTs focus on long-term achievements, such reductions in overdose death rates. These are important, but they are hard to control, and they can be impacted by other factors. To really understand the work, we also need to look at some of the more immediate outcomes that are in the QRTs’ control – things like response times, engagement rates, and successful referrals. QRTs are embedded within complex and changing environments. Their implementation strategies must be developed in a way that can remain flexible.  To understand what makes a QRT work (not just whether they work) it is important to integrate implementation measures in early evaluation of programs.  Due to the fact that QRTs are different from community-to community, it’s important to understand certain elements of a QRT when considering its outcomes – things like team composition, funding sources, referral sources, and community resources can impact a team’s performance. Ultimately, this will help us build an evidence-based model and ensure that the work keeps going when there is turnover.  Along with standardized procedures and protocols, decisions and changes in implementation should be tracked to understand whether a change in data is directly related to an operational change.
To watch the full webinar, Evaluating the Implementation and Impact of QRTs in Our Communities, click here.
- Valerie Marshall, External evaluator for Michigan DHHS, Western Michigan University Evaluation Center
- Jan Fields, PhD, Program Evaluator, Michigan Overdose Data to Action (MODA) Program, MDHHS, Division of Chronic Disease & Injury Control
- Kimberly Sperber, PhD, Director, Center for Health and Human Services Research, Talbert House, Cincinnati OH
- Sarah Manchak, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati
- Kelly Gurka, PhD Overdose Data to Action Evaluation Team Lead, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Florida