Using policy codesign to achieve multi-sector alignment in adolescent behavioral health: a study protocol

Sarah Cusworth Walker, Kym R. Ahrens, Mandy D. Owens, McKenna Parnes, Joe Langley, Christine Ackerley, Jonathan Purtle, Lisa Saldana, Gregory A. Aarons, Aaron Hogue, Lawrence A. Palinkas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Policymaking is quickly gaining focus in the field of implementation science as a potential opportunity for aligning cross-sector systems and introducing incentives to promote population health, including substance use disorders (SUD) and their prevention in adolescents. Policymakers are seen as holding the necessary levers for realigning service infrastructure to more rapidly and effectively address adolescent behavioral health across the continuum of need (prevention through crisis care, mental health, and SUD) and in multiple locations (schools, primary care, community settings). The difficulty of aligning policy intent, policy design, and successful policy implementation is a well-known challenge in the broader public policy and public administration literature that also affects local behavioral health policymaking. This study will examine a blended approach of coproduction and codesign (i.e., Policy Codesign), iteratively developed over multiple years to address problems in policy formation that often lead to poor implementation outcomes. The current study evaluates this scalable approach using reproducible measures to grow the knowledge base in this field of study. Methods: This is a single-arm, longitudinal, staggered implementation study to examine the acceptability and short-term impacts of Policy Codesign in resolving critical challenges in behavioral health policy formation. The aims are to (1) examine the acceptability, feasibility, and reach of Policy Codesign within two geographically distinct counties in Washington state, USA; (2) examine the impact of Policy Codesign on multisector policy development within these counties using social network analysis; and (3) assess the perceived replicability of Policy Codesign among leaders and other staff of policy-oriented state behavioral health intermediary organizations across the USA. Discussion: This study will assess the feasibility of a specific approach to collaborative policy development, Policy Codesign, in two diverse regions. Results will inform a subsequent multi-state study measuring the impact and effectiveness of this approach for achieving multi-sector and evidence informed policy development in adolescent SUD prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
JournalImplementation Science Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Adolescent
  • Behavioral health
  • Evidence use
  • Formation
  • Policy design
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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