Approach and Methodology

The evidence is clear: It is possible to prevent, treat, and recover from mental health disorders and addiction.  But with countless programs making broad claims about their quality and effectiveness, it can be difficult to sort through the noise. To discern the most promising philanthropic opportunities, we took a multipronged approach which included the following key activities:

  • A scan of the sector. We reviewed existing resources and frameworks—including frameworks commonly used for public health action, the socioecological model, the social determinants of health framework, the life cycle approach, and the care continuum model—to organize a single toolkit appropriate for donor decision-making.
  • Establishing an Advisory Board. We gathered 15 experts—including funders, practitioners, academics, and policy experts—working to advance mental health and addiction or an adjacent issue area (i.e. education and criminal justice). They guided our research, helped us to identify key resources and additional experts, and provided feedback on our final framework.
  • A literature review. We analyzed more than 150 academic articles, scientific papers, and reports on mental health and addiction, as well as adjacent issue areas (e.g. education, criminal justice system, and housing), relying primarily on meta-analyses, systematic reviews, white papers, and government reports. These include but are not limited to: The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health, the 3rd edition of the Disease Control Priorities project (DCP-3), Surgeon General’s 2016 Report on Alcohol and Drugs, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports, RAND, and The Well Being Trust’s Pain in the Nation. We also analyzed data from Candid (formerly Foundation Center), the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), and the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Securing stakeholder input. We sought the perspectives of over 80 stakeholders, including donors and foundations already active in this space or adjacent social impact areas; practitioners engaging in programs to prevent, treat, and support people with mental health needs; clinicians treating patients and working to identify improved care; and academics studying brain science and the mechanisms through which care is delivered.
  • An analysis of existing models and programs. We evaluated the approaches and strategies with the highest potential for impact, sorting them by level of evidence (a framework for evaluating research) as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), then identified philanthropic opportunities for to support these approaches.
  • An iterative review process. Our Advisory Board and stakeholders provided feedback via one on one discussions, in small groups, and in two interactive workshops – one hosted at the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Annual Conference and a second hosted at the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Annual Conference. Participants represented viewpoints mirroring CHIP’s three circles of evidence—field experience, informed opinion, and research—ensuring the insight we received was both broad and deep. The CHIP team integrated the input to create this report, which was reviewed by over 30 external stakeholders.
  • Incorporating the perspectives of individuals with lived experience. We spoke to more than 30 people who would most benefit from more effective philanthropic funding in this space via focus groups. The participants shared diverse experiences of their own mental health or addiction issues or in supporting family members or friends. They spoke about navigating the mental health care system, accessing treatment and social supports, and reflected on stigma. These diverse and unique perspectives informed our framework and are included throughout the guide to highlight the impact of each funder strategy.