A common set of performance measures can help substance use disorder (SUD) program staff and partners working toward the same goals. Identifying baseline measures can help
programs document changes in the target population. Collecting metrics at regular intervals will help
programs monitor the effectiveness of the intervention.
The measures used to evaluate rural SUD programs vary depending on the program
model and the
goal of the evaluation and may include demographic information, process measures, and outcome
Demographic Information – These measures focus on describing background information
about participants, which can be important for identifying disparities or target populations.
- Educational attainment
- Income level
- Insurance status (Medicare, Medicaid, private, uninsured)
Process Measures – These measures focus on how services are provided. Examples
- Number of staff trained
- Number of educational sessions held
- Number of attendees at program events
- Number of coalition meetings held
- Number of patients enrolled in and/or served by the program
- Number of patients receiving services
- Number of successful referrals to other services
- Duration (days or weeks) of patient participation in treatment or services
- Number of patient healthcare and/or mental health visits in the past year
Outcome Measures – These measures focus on the results or overall achievements of
the program. Examples include:
- Rates of SUDs in the patient population or in the community
- Rates of hospitalization for SUD or overdose
- Rates of substance misuse-related emergency department visits
- Rates of opioid or other drug overdose
- Rates of binge or heavy drinking
- Rates of underage drinking
- Return on investment (ROI) in program examining healthcare cost savings
- Rate of substance misuse-related mortality
- Amount of time abstinent from substances such as opioids, alcohol, and stimulants
For general guidance for determining evaluation measures, see Evaluation
Measures in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.
Resources to Learn More
of Emergency Department Visits for Mental and Substance Use Disorders in the United States,
Discusses costs associated with emergency department visits for mental health and SUDs. Provides information
on patient characteristics and distribution of costs by type of SUD.
Author(s): Karaca, Z., & Moore, B.
Organization(s): Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, Agency for Healthcare Research and
Selection of High-Performing Indicators
Offers a checklist of practice-based criteria to determine the most valid indicators for monitoring
and evaluating program performance. Discusses the relevance and usefulness of each criteria
Author(s): MacDonald, G.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Project Lazarus: Community–Based Overdose Prevention in Rural North Carolina
Describes Project Lazarus, a community-based overdose prevention program that significantly reduced
overdose death rates and improved other opioid–related outcomes in western North Carolina. Includes a
description of data and outcomes that stakeholders examined to evaluate the effectiveness of the
Author(s): Albert, S., Brason, F.W., & Sanford, C.K.
Citation: Pain Medicine, 12(s2), S77-85
Prevention Dollars and Cents: A Cost-Benefit Analysis
Discusses how stakeholders can use cost-benefit analysis for decision-making, the economic impact of
substance abuse and misuse, and policy implications.
Author(s): Miller, T. and Hendrie, D.
Organization: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services