Karen Tote has been overseeing a 12-hour hotline for students coping with mental health and addictions and/or in crisis at Lakeside College for 2 years. The hotline is staffed by five (5) telephone counsellors who work on rotation. The staff are consistently working at more than full speed, and can’t keep up with the demand. They are turning over quickly because of volume of work. Karen wants to expand to a 24-hour service and hire more staff. She decides to conduct an evaluation and gather data to strengthen her case for increased funding. There is not much room to adjust her workload but she is committed to overseeing the evaluation herself, as no one else is able to lead the work. Her budget is limited as the bulk of her funding is dedicated to running the hotline and is already stretched. However, Karen does have a dedicated group of stakeholders that are willing to support the evaluation.
Karen decides she wants to assess the following:
- How well the service delivery model is working;
- How useful the hotline has been in offering mental health supports and crisis intervention
- If the hotline has been useful for diverse students such as LGBTQ students, students of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and students with disabilities.
Consider the Following Questions:
What might some limitations be for Karen in conducting the evaluation?
Limitations include budget and time constraints. Karen’s questions are both process and outcome focused and require time and resources to plan and conduct effectively. Given the staff workload and high turnover, Karen might not be able to rely on any staff support for evaluation activities and may burn out if she takes too much on herself.
What are some ways in which Karen can prepare for her evaluation work?
Karen’s first step would be to assess her readiness for evaluation and list what she has in place and what she will need to work on in order to get the most out of her evaluation efforts. She can also rally her stakeholders and identify any activities they may be able to lead. Karen can also consider connecting with evaluators on campus or applying for an evaluation grant if possible.
How might she prioritize her needs?
Given the staff workload and turnover, Karen’s priority may be to focus her time on securing evaluation supports as getting ready for her evaluation. If she must prioritize her evaluation questions then she may consider focusing on the first two. Determining the effectiveness of the hotline will allow her to make the case for increased supports. This can also allow her to seek resources to then target diverse student populations to ensure the hotline is effectively serving LGBTQ students, those from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and/or students with disabilities.