Ready, set, evaluate! If only it was that simple to follow the science. It’s not like you can go to Angie’s List and hire a researcher for prevention programs. You have to partner with a university and it would be ever so much better if you had a boatload of money before you made an inquiry.
Nevertheless, back in 2007 all the planets aligned and Reality Tour was evaluated by a university professor paid for by a generous grant. However 2007 would be the last year that grantmakers were looking to fund research. The tide shifted with the 2008 economy and research wasn’t anyone’s funding priority.
Our 2007 evaluation granted Reality Tour a listing on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices – a SAMHSA inspired tool for those searching for programs to implement. The applause was very short-lived because SAMHSA changed the qualifying standards at just about the same time we were accepted.
Yes, our prized $15K research study had deteriorated like that fuzzy-frosted, moss-colored tupperware container sitting in the nether regions of a refrigerator – EXPIRED! There simply was no shelf life.
Not giving up, we received a NECAPT Service to Science award in 2008 to prepare our study instrument to meet the new standard – a control study. Trouble was we couldn’t attract the funds to pay a researcher to conduct the new magic bullet in NREPP research standards.
To clarify – this type of evaluation requires persons who did not attend your prevention program to be surveyed and their answers weighed against those who did attend. The control negates the fact that it could be something in the water that has parents monitoring their children and discussing drugs and alcohol. To be fair, the control study comparisons actually have great interest to me but is it the best use of resources? Does evidence-based fever deter innovation? Does it keep prevention from reaching the masses in the midst of an epidemic? Does the tie-in to ‘what has gone before’ really work in a game-changing epidemic? Does it pit researchers with programs against newbies entering the realm of prevention?
Well, we had a mountain to climb for sure but our misfortune was cause for celebration. Well, to clarify Reality Tour wasn’t celebrating. It turns out that we aren’t all in this together. Our Achilles Heel was shined and polished and a gleeful spotlight was pointed in our direction as soon as those standards changed. Some experts view our volunteer-driven prevention model as alarming. Thankfully the judges, mayors, Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs etc. that have presented Reality Tour for years don’t feel that way-neither do 40,000+ PA residents who have attended.
Thankfully there’s a new opportunity. It was during a convalescence this past December that I had some leisure time and could actually respond to a LinkedIn connection request from a professor. Usually I mindlessly hit the ‘accept’ button. (That is the exact reason I have 700+ connections -all BFF’s lol) This LinkedIn connection however, resulted in an actual phone conversation and a like-minded approach to prevention was soon apparent.
By January 2017, I was meeting with our research professor who was excited about exploring Reality Tour’s parent/child prevention inner-workings and outcomes – excited because it matters. He too feels parent/child prevention is the missing link. The term journal worthy was interjected. I will be happy with the data neatly mined and ready for submission.
By March 2017, I had updated Reality Tour, updated the study instrument and engaged our most dynamic school partner (with 540 youth in 6th grade ) to join in the study. There is a possibility of adding more schools that have been long time partners.
If there’s enough compressed time left our HAZMAT team may just find some prevention penicillin.