2018 State Standard of Excellence

10. Evidence Definition and Program Inventory

Did the state or any of its agencies release a common evidence framework, guidelines, or standards to inform its research and funding decisions and make publicly available an inventory of state-funded programs categorized based on at least two tiers of evidence?

Why is this important?
Defining evidence and conducting program inventories can help state governments ensure that their programs are using proven practices and that their interventions are effective in meeting the state’s desired goals and improving outcomes for residents.

Leading Example

Minnesota Outline


Multiple agencies

Under a 2015 Minnesota law (section 13), the Minnesota Management and Budget Office developed numerous inventories and cost-benefit analyses of evidenced-based programs. These inventories include the areas of adult criminal justice, mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, and substance use. As part of these inventories, the state developed evidence definitions to categorize these interventions based on the following four levels: proven effective, promising, theory-based, or no effect. Further, Minnesota published a guide for using evidence in policymaking to help policymakers use “the effectiveness of previously implemented policies or programs to inform management, policy, and budget decisions.”

Promising Examples


Single agency

The California Department of Social Services created an Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, which allows child welfare providers and professionals to “identify, select, and implement evidence-based child welfare practices that will improve child safety, increase permanency, increase family and community stability, and promote child and family well-being.” This tool helps identify best practices and provides guidance and support for program implementation. The clearinghouse’s numerical rating scale categorizes programs into six tiers of evidence: (1) well-supported by research evidence, (2) supported by research evidence, (3) promising research evidence, (4) evidence fails to demonstrate effect, (5) concerning practice, or (6) “NR” or not able to be rated on the scientific rating scale. The clearinghouse also uses a relevance scale, as a complement to the scientific rating scale and to demonstrate applicability for client populations.


Multiple agencies

The Colorado Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting proactively publishes periodic Results First reports, including the 2017 Prevention Findings, which categorize all of the state-funded prevention programs in the areas of child welfare, criminal justice, and juvenile justice according to the following three tiers of evidence: evidence-based, promising, and needs additional research (pp. 7 and 146). The reports also applies a cost-benefit analysis to these same programs (pp. 2 and 6).


Multiple agencies

A 2015 Connecticut law (pp. 649–651) defines the following three tiers of evidence for programs operated by the Connecticut Departments of Correction, Children and Families, and Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Court Support Services Division of the Judicial Branch: evidence-based, research-based, and promising. This law also requires these same agencies to categorize their programs by these evidence tiers in even-numbered fiscal years.


Single agency

Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice requires all delinquency prevention contractors to implement at least one evidence-based model from the agency’s Sourcebook of Delinquency Interventions. The sourcebook defines three levels of evidence (evidence-based practices, promising practices, or practices with demonstrated effectiveness) and lists all juvenile justice programs according to their level of evidence. The department also introduced a Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol, a monitoring tool that ensures providers implement programs with fidelity.


Multiple agencies

A 2014 Mississippi state law (Title 27, chapter 103, section 159) requires the Mississippi Departments of Corrections, Health, Education, and Transportation to (1) develop an inventory of their programs based on four levels of evidence (evidence-based program, research-based program, promising practice, or other programs and activities); and (2) report during the budget process about their programs’ cost-benefit ratio and effectiveness. For example, a 2017 Mississippi report on adult prison intervention programs included an inventory of prison-based programs and their estimated fiscal year expenditures and evidence base in FY2016 (pp. 5–6). Mississippi’s FY2019 budget process requires all state agencies (pp. 14–15) to include the level of evidence, the cost-benefit ratio, and the performance measurement plan for any new proposed programs.


Multiple agencies

New Mexico has published a series of inventory and cost-benefit reports in the areas of children’s behavioral health, adult behavioral health, early education, child welfare, and criminal justice. A 2017 report included a program inventory of New Mexico’s 34 child behavioral health programs administered by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and Health Services Department (p. 11). These programs were categorized by three tiers of evidence: evidence-based, promising practice, and not evidence-based. The state has also done extensive cost-benefit analysis of its programs and published guidance on Legislating for Results. Additionally, in 2015 the New Mexico Department of Corrections issued guidance on using evidence-based programs and performing cost-benefit analysis.


Multiple agencies

Under a 2003 Oregon law the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Oregon Youth Authority, the Oregon Youth Development Division, and “the part of the Oregon Health Authority that deals with mental health and addiction issues” are required to compile a biennial program inventory with results from funded programs and perform cost-benefit analyses. The law also requires these agencies to “spend at least 75 percent of state moneys that the agency receives for programs on evidence-based programs” by 2011. In 2007, to support the implementation of evidence-based interventions in a consistent manner, the Oregon Addictions and Mental Health Division released definitions for six tiers of evidence-based practices from interventions that are “scientifically sound randomized controlled studies that have shown consistently positive outcomes” to those that “consistently [have] poor outcomes for a particular population.” Further, in 2016 the Oregon Youth Authority and the Oregon Department of Corrections both published reports on the use of evidence-based programs, which inventory and evaluate the effectiveness and evidence base of each department’s programs.


Single agency

In 2015, in accordance with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act [in section 32B-2-402(1)(f)], the Utah Department of Human Services issued a rule to create a statewide registry of evidence-based substance abuse prevention interventions. The Department’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health convened an Evidence Based Workgroup which defined the following four levels of evidence: well supported, supported, promising, and emerging. Using these tiers, the workgroup published an inventory of evidence-based programs in 2015. Also, a 2015 report by the Utah Department of Corrections scored jail and prison-based programs as “highly effective,” “effective,” “needs improvement,” or “ineffective” (p. 14) according to their use of evidence-based practices.


Multiple agencies

A 2012 Washington State law (1) stated that “prevention and intervention services delivered to children and juveniles in the areas of mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice [must] be primarily evidence-based and research-based” (p. 2); (2) directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to develop definitions for three levels of evidence: evidence-based, research-based, and promising practices (p. 4); and (3) tasked WSIPP with creating an inventory of evidence-based programs, which was released in 2012 with subsequent annual updates, including this 2016 report. Under a 2013 Washington State law (pp. 105–106), the Washington State Department of Corrections and WSIPP compiled a program inventory using the following evidence levels: evidence-based, research-based, and cost beneficial (p. 2).