Abstract: Examining the Organizational Function and Capacity of Consumer Operated Service Providers in Texas (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Examining the Organizational Function and Capacity of Consumer Operated Service Providers in Texas

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Juli Earley, MSW, Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin
Amy Lodge, Ph.D., Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin
Heather Peterson, Ph.D., Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin
Stacey Manser, PhD, Associate Director, University of Texas at Austin, TX
Background and Purpose

In this mixed methods study, researchers at the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health developed a framework to examine the organizational function and capacity of Consumer Operated Service Providers (COSPs) in Texas. COSPs are operated and governed by mental health peer providers. They are a SAMHSA-recognized Evidence Based Practice and an important part of the recovery-oriented behavioral health system.


Executive directors from seven COSPs that receive funding through the SAMHSA Mental Health Block Grant were invited to participate in the study. Data collection included a 32-item online survey, an in-person site visit, and an interview with directors over the phone or in-person.

Surveys were administered through Qualtrics. Descriptive statistics were conducted in SPSS. Site visits were conducted in-person at the organizations using a 32-item checklist and 22-item questionnaire. The interview included 25 semi-structured questions. Site visit and interview data were analyzed using NVIVO. Codes emerged from the data and were categorized into domains of function and capacity.


Results of this study include a framework for evaluating function and capacity, as well as a description of the function and capacity of COSPs in Texas. Three domains of organizational function were identified: development and mission; operational management; and governance and leadership. Two domains of organizational capacity were identified: operational resources, knowledge, and skills, and adaptability and sustainability.

Related to organizational function, all COSPs offered an array of services and activities, including advocacy; individual and group peer support; and social and recreational activities. Most COSPs had written job descriptions for staff; financial management policies; written by-laws; and a board of directors. All COSPs reported that members are involved in the function of the organization. Additionally, 67% of staff and 57% of volunteers were peers. Regarding needs, few organizations had written volunteer job descriptions; staff benefits; written policies and procedures; or a written succession plan for the executive director.

Related to organizational capacity, all organizations reported they trained new staff and volunteers; had access to key technology resources; collected and reported organizational outputs; received funding through a variety of streams; had nonprofit status; and maintained strategic partnerships and alliances with other organizations. The most commonly cited capacity barriers impacted the COSPs’ capability to identify and obtain funding to hire more staff, provide staff benefits, and expand services and activities. These barriers included limited administrative resources to fulfill funder requirements, lack of time and resources to apply for funding, and challenges demonstrating tangible organizational outcomes. Additionally, COSPs identified training and technical assistance needs including strategic planning, performance evaluation, fundraising, and fiscal and nonprofit management.

Conclusions and Implications

This research provides insight into the functional and capacity strengths and needs of COSPs. The framework for evaluating organizational function and capacity can be a useful tool for other COSPs and mental health organizations in the future. Researchers are currently expanding and revising the framework to conduct further analysis, and are using the results to inform the Texas Health and Human Services Commission about specific training and technical needs of COSPs.