Harmonizing databases? Developing a quasi-experimental design to evaluate a public mental health re-entry program

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Databases, Factual; State Government; Massachusetts; Mental Health Services


Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Public Health


Our study is the first-ever initiative to merge administrative databases in Massachusetts to evaluate an important public mental health program. It examines post-incarceration outcomes of adults with serious mental illness (SMI) enrolled in the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) Forensic Transition Team (FTT) program. The program began in 1998 with the goal of transitioning offenders with SMI released from state and local correctional facilities utilizing a core set of transition activities. In this study we evaluate the program's effectiveness using merged administrative data from various state agencies for the years 2007-2011, comparing FTT clients to released prisoners who, despite having serious mental health disorders, did not meet the criterion for DMH services. By systematically describing our original study design and the barriers we encountered, this report will inform future efforts to evaluate public programs using merged administrative databases and electronic health records.

DOI of Published Version



Eval Program Plann. 2012 Nov;35(4):461-72. Epub 2012 Mar 3. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Evaluation and program planning

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed