Evidence-Based Practices

I remember hearing about City Year a program that recruits enthusiastic young people to help mentor students in schools. I think it was the first time I heard of the term evidence based practice. I had tried a similar approach as a librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside years ago. We recruited student reference assistants to help mentor younger students and we published an article about our results. this was an effort to improve the retention of minority students at the university. One of the requirements that the university implemented was that the students needed to develop the ability to access information that they needed for their classes.

The reference librarians were expected to act as teachers in classes about the library. I did some research to help determine that we were losing minority students as fast as we could enroll them at the university. Could the situation be improved?

Now, years later, in Milwaukee, we are seeing a program called City Year with proven results in Boston, being implemented to mentor struggling students. The program rewards the mentors for their hard work and self sacrifice through assisting them with college.  This being Milwaukee there were the usual negative comments about the article promoting City Year in today’s Milwaukee Journal  Sentinel. Accompanying the article was a picture of mostly African-American young people in their City Year uniforms proudly showing up. And there were some positive parents whose children had participated in City Year who rose up and defended the idea. At least one person reported on the positive results that City Year had helped achieve in other locations. It is an evidence based practice.

A few years ago, I helped rally support for some other evidence based practices, like the Crisis Resource Center, which diverts people from possible encounters with the criminal justice system or inpatient mental health treatment. I also worked on an effort to implement training first responders in recognizing that the persons they encounter may be experiencing mental health problems. After some initial resistance, Crisis Intervention Team training and Crisis Intervention Partnerships have grown beyond our original vision.

This semester, through my field work placement and research class, I will be learning more about developing and implementing research based programs and activities in social work. To use that horrible phrase, “I have come full circle.” It’s time to learn what works.

When I originally wrote this story in September 2010, I was not focused on my position as a peer support specialist. Peer specialists have proven to be essential in the recovery of people from mental illness. Working as peer specialists has helped thousands of people in their own recovery. More recently the higher development of certification has also proven effective. My work over the past 7 years has impacted hundreds of people living in supported apartments, the Crisis Resource Center, the community support program and targeted case management.

I am part of a movement that is sweeping the country. People gather data that shows the results just like we presented information to Milwaukee County. As these results show that people in various areas of the country have better lives, it builds up the case for peer support.


5 thoughts on “Evidence-Based Practices

  1. My son-in-law is in law enforcement and volunteered for the CIS program because he has a family member with a mental illness. As a result, he understands me a little better 😉 He said it was informative and useful and should be taught in the POST courses throughout the nation. Good program.


  2. I’m reading an evidence based research article about using alternative high schools to reduce student dropout rates. Plus I have a sample paper to use as a guide. I am definitely going to take my time with this paper.


  3. The research article that I am reaching is evaluating the use of solution focused brief therapy which I learned about at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Milwaukee has several leading brief therapy practitioners. Brief therapy as the name implies, is short term oriented and focuses on assisting the client overcome immediate problems without concern regarding long term deep emotional issues. I liked the idea and actually used it in some of my work as a peer support specialist. The assumption behind this technique is that you may only see the client once so you need to help the person achieve immediate results.


  4. I am starting to be little intrigued by the intervention designed at the solution focused school. In reading through the article, I’m learning that teachers, administrators, school support staff, janitors and some student peer leaders were trained in the solution-focused approach in in-service trainings conducted by experts in solution-focused therapy. A solution-focused coach was provided to assist teachers in the classroom and to lead small group trainings, which were ongoing throughout the school year.


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