Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Bevin Croft


MPP '10, PhD Candidate

Consumers making decisions about their treatment dollars

Bevin Croft investigates how the public behavioral health system can support the self-determination of people who receive services

Bevin Croft, MPP ’10 and current Heller doctoral student, believes the self-directed service delivery approach could produce significant benefits if widely applied in behavioral health. “While preliminary evaluations of small pilot programs show promising results,” she says, “we are examining key barriers and facilitators, and filling knowledge gaps to understand next steps for taking behavioral health self-direction to scale.” She hopes to see the model adopted on a large scale for those with substance use and mental health issues, and sees herself playing a role in examining program implementation and measuring outcomes.

Self-directed programs (or consumer- and participant-directed programs) allow persons with disabilities to select and purchase their own disability-related services and supports with help from coaches who offer person-centered planning and budgeting assistance. When offered to populations such as older Medicaid beneficiaries and those with physical and developmental disabilities, these delivery models increase satisfaction with services and quality of life while containing costs.

Croft has long been interested in ways the public behavioral health system can support the self-determination of people who receive services, through improved service quality and using peer providers and innovative models such as crisis alternatives. When she came across self-direction, it struck her as something that had the potential to promote self-sufficiency.

Croft, who completed her master’s in public policy at the Heller School and went on to enroll in Heller’s doctoral program, has appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of Heller and her ability to develop different skill sets that allow her to tackle complex social policy issues. “The adaptive and flexible approaches at Heller make this a perfect learning environment,” she says. “The diversity of disciplines and focused, single-minded commitment to social justice is the unity and driving force at the school.”

The side-by-side quantitative and qualitative data techniques and Croft’s increasing ability to take direct inferences from data allow Croft a sophistication about the politics and policy that often promote and sustain inequality. “Turning that equation around through a sensitivity to timing as well as influencing the right people is so important in policy change,” she says.

The non-curricular aspect at Heller is also of great benefit for Croft, the lectures and events as well as the student community she finds herself in. Many doctoral students have been practitioners prior to continuing their education at Heller - many of them at a senior level in their fields. Croft observes that “learning from each other is a tremendous asset and being exposed to differing perspectives and knowledge provides such added value.”  

Croft is a National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Fellow but already had her own ongoing research interests and projects. After taking a consortium course with Kevin Mahoney, the Executive Director of the Boston College National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services (NRCPDS- www.participantdirection.org), she has worked on projects related to self-direction in behavioral health. Though that means she is not as involved with one of Heller’s nine research institutes as some of her fellow students, Croft’s relationship with the Schneider Institutes, especially the Institute for Behavioral Health, is an important connection. “Just seeing from 2008 when I started in the MPP program, how involved Heller faculty were with health care reform and how that Massachusetts law went on to be a model for the nation took my breath away. What a privilege to be at a school with such great influence,” she says.

Croft sees her work on self-direction, individual choice and how to allocate funds for both mental health and substance use as her life's work, and she is excited to be at the cusp of a new movement in self-direction where her knowledge can help assure its success.

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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