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“The commission’s report describes community corrections as a middle ground for non-violent offenders in which an individual is not incarcerated, but is under more stringent surveillance than probation. They are supervised through office visits, home visits, drug testing and electronic monitoring. As of Sept. 30, 2020, there were 36 programs operating in 51 of Alabama’s 67 counties.”
“ACES is tasked with bringing a data-based lens to every program that receives a direct budget appropriation, including health and human services, education, criminal justice, and youth and rehab services. Morgan and his staff make an annual work plan for evaluations based on four principals — efficiency, effectiveness, collaboration and capacity — though all four may not apply in every case.”
“So that brings us to our current status: How do we have an independent group that will evaluate the programs and services of our government, and be a fair arbiter of what is working well for the dollars we are spending? And are there programs that could be more effective if they had more funding? Or are there programs that quite frankly need to be put to rest? That’s the reason we started the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services, or ACES. We can make much more precise, targeted funding decisions knowing the programs that are out there and having them evaluated.”
“No single organization is responsible for coordinating the state’s suicide prevention efforts, resulting in no fewer than four state agencies and multiple partners implementing a fragmented system,” said the September report from the Alabama Commission on Evaluation of Services.
The report is the first for the commission, referred to as ACES, created through legislation in 2019 “for the purpose of advising the Legislature and the governor regarding the evaluation of services, which may include evidence-based policymaking, within the state.”
“Alabama lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 to create a Commission on the Evaluation of Services. Co-chaired by executive and legislative branch leaders, the commission evaluates the effectiveness of state services and advises the legislature and governor on program evaluation and resource allocation.“
“In some states that have moved to more evidence-based decision-making, the legislatures drive the changes. For example, a joint legislative committee in Mississippi routinely looks at performance evaluations and expenditure reviews to assess agency programming. Elsewhere, the executive branch takes the lead:”
“To ensure that processes relying on evidence are adopted in sustainable, long-term ways, states need to build significant support. Gaining buy-in from both the executive and legislative branches can be critical.
For officials in Alabama, deciding which branch of government would house this work had been a delicate balancing act. The state’s rapid, innovative approach to cataloging services and a pilot engagement with the Department of Mental Health paved the way for the latest development: creation of a new commission to study and evaluate programs, the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services (ACES).
Alabama’s suicide rate is growing at a faster rate than comparable states. Since 2008, Alabama’s suicide rate has increased 31% with the majority of suicide related deaths occurring in white, middle-aged males. Alabama’s state plan and activities have primarily focused on youth ages 10-24 but the largest at-risk population is outside that range and represents 87.5% of the state’s total suicides.