A qualitative evaluation of a quality assurance program in a mental health area office

Virginia Barry McCrae (1990)

This dissertation describes the development, implementation, and results of a qualitative evaluation of a quality assurance program in the Greater Lawrence (MA.) Area Office. At the substantive level the purpose of the study is to understand the site-specific process of quality evaluation within the Greater Lawrence Area Office. At a more formal level, the purpose of the study is to enhance the understanding of quality assurance within community mental health systems, grounding it in the experiences of practitioners in the field. The results of the study are presented, in the form of rich description supported by units of analysis drawn from the data. Three major areas of the program evaluation component of quality assurance were identified as in need of further elaboration and clarification, for the program to meet the needs of this Area Office. These are policy, which refers to the goals of the program and the activities to be engaged in to meet those goals; actual practice, which are the methods currently used within the system to carry out program evaluation; and use of personnel, that is, who is best suited to perform quality assurance evaluations. In addition, it was possible to identify the issue and concerns held by the informants of the study that related to these three major areas. The need for a locally relevant and tailor-made policy is reflected in specific problematic areas of actual practice, such as the perceived lack of relevancy of the criteria used for program assessment and the question of who should be on the assessment team. Implications of the study at both the substantive and formal levels and specific recommendations for future research are then examined. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)