Final report: Re-engineering siloed systems of care through evidence-integrated design thinking

Department news | June 30, 2021

In April 2021, we announced the recipients of our 2020 Small Grants Program aimed at advancing the clinical, educational, research, and/or advocacy missions of our department. We were able to allocate nearly $ 100,000 to a terrific set of diverse, one-year proposals from faculty, staff and trainees on a wide range of topics. This is the final report for the “Reengineering siloed systems of care for youth through evidence-integrated design thinking” project involving Lindsey Weil, PhD, Mandy Owens, PhD, Sarah Walker, PhD, and Larry Wissow, MD.

Summary of the work completed
The project was able to document the acceptability, feasibility and implementation success of an approach to behavioral health policy planning developed to facilitate multi-sector collaboration, participatory policy codesign (PPCD). The department support was critical to building proof of concept for the approach. Since the project began, the investigator team has submitted two federal grants (R34 to NIDA, and a U01 to NIH) and received invitations to submit to two special issues with the journals Evidence and Policy and Health Services Research.

This project strengthened and facilitated new collaborations with the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, the Center for Public Health Innovation and Policy Science in the School of Public Health, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and the bay-area nonprofit, Public Health Institute. 

What did you learn because of this work?
The project powerfully reinforced the value of design-oriented processes for engaging diverse stakeholders in real world system transformation efforts. Design approaches seek to engage participants in creative, nonlinear thinking in order to develop share sense-making, goals, and ownership among community and policy stakeholders. For this project, we collaborated with the Grays Harbor public health department to address the incarceration of individuals with opioid use disorder. Staff members from the jail and human services sectors had previously attempted to set up overdose prevention programs but without success. The design-oriented approach engaged participants in crafting a joint vision for change. The resulting policy called for a jail-based screening, medication management program and reentry support services using a peer navigator. The policy incorporated multiple evidence-informed components but the participants noted they most valued learning from each other. The program was successfully implemented within 8 months of completing design sessions.

What future activities might result from this award?
Our team is committed to a line of scholarship that designs, tests and studies methods of real world systems and policy planning using shared ownership, codesign approaches. Another grant in review would establish an international collaboration between CoLab and health design centers in the United Kingdom and Canada to advance codesign as a vehicle for equity-informed planning. We are also discussing the potential value of this approach for graduate and continuing education training opportunities with colleagues in public health and social work.