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The Community Assessment and Education to Promote Behavioral Health Planning and Evaluation (CAPE) is a multi-institution research project focused on the identification and sharing of best practices for benchmarking community behavioral health.


Mental health and substance use disorders affect ~20% of the U.S. population and are often comorbid. Clinicians and healthcare providers involved in treating these disorders report lack of materials and resources available to guide their programs as well as a lack of strategies that are population-specific. Unfortunately, there is a significant time gap of about two decades between research findings and program implementation. Therefore, CAPE was created to address the lack of data and tool compilation, improve sharing of data and tools across sectors, and catalyze the process of research findings being implemented into successful treatment programs. CAPE is a national program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and facilitated by USDA and its Regional Rural Development Centers.

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The overall goal of CAPE is to assess benchmark measures of behavioral health in local communities to identify and share best practices.

  • CAPE I focused on using publicly available data to prioritize behavioral health community needs.
  • CAPE II targets innovation and index communities to identify early warning behavioral disorder symptoms and develop cost-effective, adaptable interventions that address prevalent behavioral health disorders, such as tobacco use, substance use, and mental health disorders.

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CAPE I identified 10 communities for which a Behavioral Snapshot and Behavioral Health Profile were created. Locations were selected from across the United States:

  • Kansas - Finney County
  • Louisiana - Orleans Parish
  • Maryland - Garrett County
  • Missouri - Pettis County
  • Nevada - Clark County
  • New Mexico - Dona Ana County
  • Tennessee - Blount County
  • Vermont - Chittenden County
  • Virginia - New River Valley
  • West Virginia - Kanawha County (See Behavioral Snapshot and Behavioral Health Profile)

CAPE map
CAPE II is tasked with developing early warning system for behavioral health which are affordable and replicable. This process revolves around 4 key components:

  • Index Communities - 9 communities report on their behavioral health biweekly over the course of a year, while the CAPE team analyzes the data to identify potential changes and design appropriate intervention
  • Index Light Communities - 4 communities report on their behavioral health monthly over the course of a year, while the CAPE team analyzes the data to identify potential changes and design appropriate intervention
  • Innovation Communities - 4 communities are testing self-developed early warning protocols, primarily using police and hospital data to detect changes
  • Replicator Community - use of Innovation Communities data to replicate a community early warning system in the Seattle, WA area

Outcome, Impact, & Future Work

Behavioral health affects a wide variety of settings including prenatal care, mental health, law enforcement and education. The complexity and cost of community programs make change a significant challenge. CAPE's ultimate goal is to lessen that burden by providing communities with accurate data, effective intervention programs and affordable assessing and monitoring tools. As part of this mission, CAPE has develop an extensive toolkit easily accessible online and offers multiple annual webinars.


The partner institutions include Kansas State University, Michigan State University, Oklahoma State University, West Virginia University and the University of Arizona.

Stay up to date with CAPE's latest news.

Publications & Presentations

* denotes Research Assistant Trainees in the Olfert Research Lab

Steele K, Walmsley BR, Olfert MD, Lemley S, Dunn B. Response to the Drug Crisis in One Appalachian City: A Collaborative Early Warning System Approach Urban Social Work 2017, Volume 1, Number 2, pp. 183-201(19).


Wattick RA, Hagedorn RL, Skidmore M, Olfert MD. Community Assessment and Education to Promote Behavioral Health Planning and Evaluation (CAPE). Southern Demographic Association. Morgantown, WV. October 2017.

Olfert MD , Wattick RA*, Hagedorn RL*. Implementation of the community assessment and education to promote behavioral health planning and evaluation (CAPE II Study). Abstract ID: 21079. NCI Dissemination & Implementation conference Wash DC, Dec 2017.