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NIATx in New Places: Bringing the NIATx Change Leader Academy to HealtheKnowledge

By Maureen Fitzgerald, communications manager, Great Lakes ATTC, MHTTC, and PTTC, and Scott Gatzke, director of dissemination, Great Lakes ATTC, MHTTC, and PTTC

NIATx began as a demonstration project in which 39 substance use treatment organizations tested process improvement tools borrowed from industry and manufacturing to improve treatment access and retention.

A still frame from the "NIATx on a Napkin" YouTube video showing a piece of paper with a written diagram of the NIATx Model. The paper shows a center-aligned circle with "Change Project Aim" written in the middle. Around the circle, the three main components of a change team and change project (People, Tools, Rules) are written with arrows showing the relationship between these components and the change project aim.

The success of the NIATx approach surpassed expectations. Grantees reported impressive improvements in show rates, continuation, and even the financial bottom line of their organizations. NIATx director Dave Gustafson and his team realized they needed a plan to disseminate the model and meet the growing demand for NIATx training. A key part of the dissemination plan was to host an annual national conference.

Scott Gatzke, senior NIATx trainer and director of dissemination, joined the NIATx team in 2006 to make that plan a reality. “The Summit was also an event to celebrate the success of NIATx change teams and share best practices,” he adds.

“What set the NIATx model apart and what really motivated change teams who attended the event was the impact of making small changes that quickly yielded great results,” says Scott. “The annual Summit tapped into that energy with built-in peer networking. We also made a point to select speakers from outside the field to inspire new ideas and creative thinking.”

Each year of the Summit (2007–2013), Scott used the NIATx approach to improve the planning and execution of the event. “We analyzed attendee feedback for improvement suggestions, designed PDSA cycles for the processes needing improvement, and tested them through walk-throughs focusing on the customer experience.”

Disseminating the NIATx model
NIATX Change Leader Academy: Rapid Cycle Change for Teams

Scott was also one of the team members who helped develop and refine the NIATx Change Leader Academy (CLA). “The CLA was created to meet the growing demand for NIATx training and make the approach available to any organization looking for as easy-to-use model for making improvements,” says Scott. “Since launching in 2006, the CLA has trained hundreds of change leaders in practically every state in the country.”

The CLA also demonstrates how NIATx has expanded to reach new groups outside the original audience of substance use treatment providers. “CLAs in recent years have helped change teams in diverse areas such as culturally and linguistically appropriate services, workforce development, and suicide prevention programs in schools.”

As NIATx has expanded to new areas, the CLA has also adapted in response to customer needs. “We shortened the original two-day in-person training to one day to reduce travel time,” says Scott. “When COVID-19 hit, we developed a virtual CLA, and our newest version is now available on-demand as an online course through HealtheKnowledge: NIATx Change Leader Academy: Rapid-Cycle Change for Teams.”

Todd Molfenter, Director of the Great Lakes ATTC, MHTTC, and PTTC, created content for the course.

“We’re excited to offer training on the NIATx model in a self-paced online learning environment,” adds Scott. “The course lays out the core elements of the NIATx model using the case example of a probation department trying to improve treatment show rates for juveniles coming out of detention—reinforcing the concept that while NIATx was designed originally for substance use treatment field, the approach can work in any setting.”

Now available on HealtheKnowledge

The HealtheKnowledge course consists of four 15–30-minute interactive modules that give learners the tools to sketch out a change project. "They'll also learn how to apply the tools separately from a change project."

The course will also be the first component of an expanded online offering that NIATx coach Mat Roosa is now developing. “The working title for this course is NIATx CLA 4.0,” says Scott. “It will combine the core HealtheKnowledge course with a series of short videos, quizzes, and a step-by-step change project worksheet.”

Scott Gatzke is a senior trainer/coach of the NIATx process improvement model and director of dissemination for the Great Lakes ATTC, MHTTC, and PTTC. Scott is also the collaborative learning manager for the Behavioral Health Excellence-Technical Assistance Center. Scott has more than 15 years of experience coordinating state-wide and national conferences, trainings, and learning collaboratives for behavioral health and social service professionals and educators.

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The opinions expressed herein are the views of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SAMHSA, CSAT or the ATTC Network. No official support or endorsement of DHHS, SAMHSA, or CSAT for the opinions of authors presented in this e-publication is intended or should be inferred.