State Mental Health Agency Officials' Preferences for and Sources of Behavioral Health Research

Jonathan Purtle, Félice Lê-Scherban, Katherine L. Nelson, Paul T. Shattuck, Enola K. Proctor, Ross C. Brownson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


State mental health agencies (SMHAs) are integral to public behavioral health service systems. As such, senior-level officials within SMHAs are important targets for advocacy and dissemination of behavioral health research findings. Evidence-informed decision making in SMHAs can potentially be enhanced by developing summaries of behavioral health research (e.g., policy briefs) that reflect SMHA officials' information preferences, but knowledge about these preferences is lacking. An exploratory study was conducted with the aims of characterizing senior-level SMHA officials' preferences for behavioral health research and describing where they turn for this research when making policy decisions. A crosssectional, web-based survey of senior-level SMHA officials (1 per state) was conducted in March±May 2017 (n = 43, response rate = 84%). The features of behavioral health research that SMHA officials identified as "very important" most frequently were research being relevant to state residents (93.0%), providing data on cost-effectiveness (86.0%) and budget impact (81.4%), and being presented concisely (81.0%). The primary sources that SMHA officials turned to for behavioral research when making policy decisions were professional organizations (79.1%), SMHA agency staff (60.5%), and university researchers (55.8%). Compared with state legislators' responses to the same survey questions, results suggest that senior-level SMHA officials and legislators have similar preferences for behavioral health research but turn to different sources for this research. Advocates and researchers who seek to promote evidenceinformed decision making in SMHAs should consider developing policy briefs that are concise, provide state-level prevalence data about behavioral conditions, and contain economic evaluation data, and they should disseminate these materials to multiple sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychological Services
StateAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Advocacy
  • Dissemination
  • Policy
  • State mental health agencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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