With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in partnership with the University of Washington (UW), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) funded the Advancing Harm Reduction through Data Analysis & Evaluation project to promote monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of syringe services programs (SSPs) and support the use of data for SSP program improvement.
The purpose of this funding opportunity was to support and build capacity for data analysis and evaluation at SSPs. The funding opportunity was also designed to support SSPs in using data for program and policy improvement and inform future technical assistance opportunities by identifying lessons learned and best practices for the field and identifying models and best practices for data analysis at SSPs of varied capacity.
Over the next few months, NACCHO will be highlighting a few SSP grantees, from their successes to lessons learned throughout the project. Our first highlighted site is Maine Access Points (MAP). MAP is “a harm reduction organization, providing syringe access services, overdose prevention education and naloxone distribution, peer support, and advocacy throughout rural Maine.” MAP provides these services through “networks of community distribution and collective organizing.”
NACCHO had the opportunity to speak with a representative of MAP to better understand overall challenges, successes, and lessons learned throughout the project period.
“With support from a contracted consultant team made possible through NACCHO funding, MAP evaluated its previous data collection, analysis and evaluation processes and built a comprehensive database for data collection, storage, analysis, and reporting,” explained MAP. “MAP increased its data security and capacity to store confidential health information in partnership with Yale University. Together with our consultant team we cleaned, migrated, and analyzed historical data to assess the impact of our work to date and built the capacity to do this ongoing.”
When asked how their project improved existing harm reduction M&E infrastructure as well as the impact it had on people who use drugs (PWUD), they responded “lead staff were able to engage the entire MAP team in the assessment of our original systems for data collection and evaluation, as well as the development of new systems. This provided a rich knowledge base to inform the creation of and transition to new systems. Through the creation of our own database, MAP has been able to use data to create its first ever impact report to share with community stakeholders, funders, and participants, as well as engage in organizing and advocacy efforts to improve statewide SSP programming, funding, and service delivery.”
Each site learned something new from this project, and MAP’s two key takeaways are as follows:
- It is critically important to bring the entire team into the creation of these systems, especially those who are most impacted in the field and by changes to data collection and analysis processes.
- There are people out there that can bring their expertise to your program. Our relationship with our consultant team and Yale University has been invaluable to our growth, sustainability, the public perception of our programming, and beyond.