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Utah's state government is the second-best in the nation for using "evidence-based policy making," or basically focusing its limited resources on programs that are proven to produce positive results.

That's according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation.

It said Utah is a leader among the states in putting money where research shows it will actually do good "by developing processes and tools that use evidence to inform policy and budget decisions."

Only the state of Washington had higher marks in the study. Utah was among just five states that the study said are doing an exemplary job. The others were Minnesota, Connecticut and Oregon.

The study praised the governor's Office of Management and Budget for requiring state agencies, when making budget requests, to show "the need for service, the expected outcomes and whether it is an evidence-based practice supported by research, data, evaluation or professional industry standards."

It added that Gov. Gary Herbert's budget last year identified 41 programs that were required to provide additional evidence of effectiveness before they would be funded in future years.

It praised the state Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health for using a registry "of evidence-based prevention programs to guide its contracting decisions."

When that agency rejects contractors, the study said, it gives them "a written explanation of the decision and recommendations for improvements" — and offers technical assistance to help them qualify in the future.

The study also specifically praised Utah criminal and juvenile justice administrators for studying effectiveness of programs before funding them.

It said they "analyzed recidivism outcomes of several programs, including comparisons against a control group," before deciding what to fund.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Greg Hughes said the Legislature also tries hard to base its decisions on data and proven results. "We're trying to use good information to drive good decisions."