Current Projects

Ad-Hoc Projects: The Civic Institute is regularly contracted by local and state agencies to assist in various capacities, including program evaluation and outcome measurement, program development, planning initiatives, and grant writing, among other services.  A full list of services offered by the Civic Institute can be found on the Resources and Projects tab on our website.


Community-Based Family and Youth Program Evaluations: The Civic Institute continues to evaluate a series of community-based family and youth programs currently under contract with Erie County.  The Civic Institute utilizes measures set forth by the federal government, reporting directly to those essential policy makers, in an effort to maintain fidelity in the 30 plus youth and family programs currently receiving funding from the local level.



The Community Reintegration of Offenders with Mental Illness and Substance Abuse (CROMISA) program provides comprehensive, intensive, individualized services to those being released from state prisons who have a mental illness, substance abuse history and at least one year on parole or probation so that they may fully and completely reintegrate into the community. The Civic Institute collects data, writes reports, evaluates, and monitors the functioning of the program, which has become a model of treatment for dually diagnosed offenders throughout the Commonwealth.


Erie County Adult Drug Treatment & Mental Health Court Evaluation

The Civic Institute conducts annual evaluation of the Erie County Adult Drug and Mental Health Treatment Courts. On an on-going basis staff of the Institute assists Erie County Department of Probation in their data collection process and reports out annually on the demographic and programmatic findings. These evaluations are done in conjunction with the Erie County Court of Common Pleas and the Erie County Department of Drug and Alcohol.


Erie County Criminal Justice Coalition

The Erie County Criminal Justice Coalition, formerly known as the Erie County Criminal Justice Advisory Board, brings together criminal justice professionals, public officials, and private citizens to discuss pertinent topics affecting Erie County’s criminal justice system. The Board provides a forum to share priorities, concerns, and opportunities and to work together on strategies for change. The Civic Institute staff help to coordinate activities of the Board and provide staff support. In addition to ongoing facilitation, the Civic Institute hosted a planning retreat for the coalition.


Erie County Mental Health Screening & Assessment Demonstration Project

The Erie County Department of Human Services received a grant in July 2003 to implement a pilot screening and assessment service for early detection of mental health and/or substance abuse issues of those youth entering detention or shelter facilities through the Erie County Office of Children and Youth or Erie County Juvenile Probation. The Civic Institute is conducting the local evaluation of the project in addition to coordinating data collection for the state evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the program in early detection of mental health/drug & alcohol issues and the impact on placement/service recommendations.

Erie County Policy & Planning Council for Children and Families (PPC)

The Civic Institute is a member of Erie County Policy and Planning Council for Children and Families and the key community contact for Communities That Care for Erie County. The Council represents 60 community human service leaders, community representatives, non-profit organizations, government agencies, consumers of service and educators. The purpose of the Council is to provide a setting in which concerned agency representatives serving children and families seek to improve outcomes through adopting a more holistic and less fragmented approach to service provision. The Council also serves as a mechanism to facilitate collaboration and stimulate research, discussion, evaluation and implementation of policy and programs to strengthen children and families in Erie County.


Erie County Truancy Task Force: The Civic Institute continues to sit not only on the task force but also the steering committee for the Erie County Truancy Task Force.  During the 2008-2009 school year the Civic Institute completed a truancy needs assessment for Erie County.  Findings were reported back the task force in the fall of 2009.  Since then the Civic Institute has continued to add technical assistance to the task force and steering committee in an effort to reduce truancy in Erie County.


Erie DAWN: The Mercyhurst Civic Institute has been working with the staff at Erie DAWN, which provides programming (subsidized housing, case management, financial coaching, mentoring and advocacy) for homeless women, to structure an evaluation of their services.  The development of tracking forms and assessment tools to measure client progress has been an important part of developing outcomes.


Erie Together: The Mercyhurst Civic Institute, in partnership with GECAC and the United Way of Erie County, are leading a large-scale initiative to combat poverty in Erie County.  This multi-faceted approach is delivered through implementation of Dialogue to Action Teams in selected communities, which engage community members in dialogue and create action plans for their specific neighborhood, with the intent of improving the quality of life for residents, and Family Action teams, which provide a mentoring partnership for low-income families within high poverty areas to support families in working toward their goals and economic self-sufficiency.  For more information visit the projects website at


Juvenile Detention Census Management Project

In August 1998, the Civic Institute developed a pilot Level of Security Screening Instrument to assist the Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Center in transfer decisions of youth to staff secure shelters. The Mercyhurst Level of Security Screening Instrument (MLSSI) was a tool developed to assure those youth transferred pose less risk to community safety, less risk of absconding, and less risk of harming themselves or reoffending than do ineligible youth. The Institute’s staff continue to complete screening forms based on information obtained through the detaining probation officers on all youth admitted to secure detention and prepare quarterly Census Management Reports for the Department of Human Services.


Ophelia Project: The Ophelia Project’s Creating a Safe School curriculum aims to reduce peer aggression and to develop a comfortable and safe climate marked by positive normative beliefs.  The Mercyhurst Civic Institute is serving as an independent third party evaluator for the curriculum as it is being implemented in three schools within Erie County.


Ongoing Reports:  As part of its mission, the Civic Institute continues to offer trend analysis on various topics of interest for the community.  Such reports compiled annually include examinations of adult and juvenile crime trends, and births to teen mothers.  In addition, a series of publications, The Civic Column, is written and distributed periodically with timely topics that are of interest to local constituents.


PA Bureau of Drug & Alcohol Programs Peer Review Process

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs (BDAP) has commissioned the Civic Institute to oversee their Site Peer Review process beginning in 2005. This annual evaluation gives the opportunity for various program sites to review each others’ current functions, learn best practices and discuss how to overcome difficult scenarios that may be posing problems throughout the state system. In addition BDAP site program staff are afforded the opportunity to discuss concerning issues prohibiting them from making the most of their work experience. Through survey implementation, interview guide development and project facilitation the Civic Institute collects and analyzes data for each participating sites and makes site-specific and program wide evaluations and recommendations to help BDAP implement new policy.


PAYS – Pennsylvania Youth Survey

The Pennsylvania Youth Survey was first conducted in Erie County schools in 2005 by the Erie County Health Department. The national survey provides a mechanism to assess risk, protection and outcomes in the community and school districts. Following students through the grade levels by conducting the survey biennially, it provides the research based and statistically sound data required for state and federal grants. Mercyhurst University Civic Institute facilitates the entire process for PAYS at the local level.


Sanction Certainty

The Mercyhurst University Civic Institute is currently conducting an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Sanction Certainty directive of the Erie County Adult Probation Department. In 1997, Judge John Bozza requested that the Adult Probation Department in Erie County implement a Zero Tolerance (Sanction Certainty) pilot program, which provide responses to violations with clarity, celerity, and certainty; the suspected outcomes being a reduction in the number of violations per violator and a decrease in the time offenders are detained. Upon completion of this study period, a final report comparing the outcomes of the evaluation with the preliminary report and previous studies conducted by the Erie County Adult Probation Department as well as another study by the Civic Institute will be produced.


Speakers Series and Criminal Justice Conference: The Civic Institute continues to offer educational and thought-provoking events for the community.  In 2010-2011, the Civic Institute has joined various other departments of Mercyhurst University to bring The Flourishing Child speakers series to the university and general community.  This year-long series of events looks at how the world we live in impacts children on many levels.  In addition, the Civic Institute will once again partner with the School of Social Sciences to present the annual Criminal Justice Conference and Kinnane Awards Luncheon.  This years’ event, Minor Problems, Major Impact, examines the impact of trying juveniles as adults has on both the child and society.


Strategic Preventative Framework State Incentive Grant: Staff at the Civic Institute authored a grant on behalf of Erie’s Single County Authority which is housed in Eire County’s Office of Drug and Alcohol.  The grant funds, $432,000 for four years, are currently being utilized in two county schools in an effort to reduce underage alcohol consumption.  The Civic Institute continues to evaluate the program’s efforts as well as add technical assistance to the grant process.


Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: The Mercyhurst Civic Institute measures the outcomes for this evidence-based program offered by Family Services of Northwestern Pennsylvania.  The goal of this short-term, office-based therapy is to address the needs of children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other problems related to traumatic life experiences.  Participants’ pre-post data is tracked and analyzed on a quarterly basis.