What to Include in a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Mental Health Consultants?
If you are seeking an outside agency or individual to provide contracted ECMHC services, you will need to develop and circulate a Request For Proposals (RFP). The RFP, like the job description, should be very clear about the type of consultation you are seeking (required activities and approach) as well as the basic qualifications and skills required.
The starting point for a good RFP is a solid job description (see above). For an example RFP for consultation services, see Request for Proposals: Head Start Program, Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation. A good RFP should include:
- Contact information – Contact information for the Head Start program/agency, including an individual to contact with questions about the RFP (or process for submitting questions).
- Timelines - A deadline with a specific date and time for submitting proposals and an estimated time when applicants should expect a response.
- Background information – A description of your Head Start program and its approach to mental health services and supports for children and families. Include information that can help potential applicants understand your program’s model and approach to working with children and families.
- Scope of services – Essentially, the duties and tasks to be performed, as specified in the job description which should be incorporated into or attached to the RFP
- Expected deliverables – A detailed list of the required products that the MHC is expected to complete, including completed screenings and/or assessments, for those children referred for child and family-centered consultation, documentation of MHC activities or time spent, and any other written reports or documentation that are expected.
- Expected time schedule – When services will be provided including frequency and duration of various activities. These should be specified in the job description incorporated into or attached to the RFP, and should include the proportion of MHC time spent on activities, frequency of various key activities such as classroom observations, time spent or number of visits to classes per month or other time interval, specified numbers of meetings with staff or trainings provided, etc
- Description of qualifications – A description of the applicants knowledge, experience, and training in regard to desired qualifications and services (include required and preferred qualifications from the job description).
- Cost of services / reimbursement – You may want to include the amount you are willing to pay for services, a range of possible/maximum fees, or ask the applicant to present a bid or estimate for what they believe it will cost to provide the desired services and what portion may be considered as in-kind contribution.
- Description of requested response - What do you want the applicant to include or describe in their response to the RFP? What is most important to your program? Areas that you might want to ask for in the written response include:
- Approach to requested services—a description of how the applicant would provide the requested services, including relevant similar work, description of approach to children’s mental health, and their approach to implementing effective mental health consultation in Head Start.
- Approach to working with culturally, socially, and economically diverse families and staff
- Description of how the contracted agency will ensure continuity of service from the same individual/consultant. Turnover within the mental health field is often quite high, and given the importance of relationships to the consultation process, it is important to look for evidence that a contracted agency or individual will be able to provide ongoing services to your program for at least a year, and preferably longer.
- References for similar work
- Cost estimates
- Criteria for evaluating responses to the RFP – You will need to include a description of how the applicants’ response to the RFP will be evaluated and scored. You may want to assign a certain number of points to those elements of the response that are described above, or come up with a weighted system that reflects what is particularly important to your program. Aspects of consultation that you might consider evaluating and scoring include:
- Ability to partner/build relationships with staff/families;
- Cultural sensitivity/responsiveness;
- Understanding of the program’s vision/approach to mental health services:
- Experience doing programmatic and child and family-centered consultation and
- Experience working with young children in child care/early education settings.
Depending on your program’s specific needs, you may want to weight different criteria more or less heavily.