Assessing a community’s available resources and readiness to address substance misuse is a key part of the prevention planning process.
Prevention efforts are more likely to be successful when they are informed by a complete assessment of a community’s capacity to address identified substance use problems. Capacity for prevention includes two main components: resources and readiness.
What are Resources?
Resources include anything a community can use to help address prevention needs, such as:
- People (for example, staff and volunteers)
- Specialized knowledge and skills (for example, research expertise)
- Community connections (for example, access to population groups)
- Concrete supplies (for example, money, and equipment)
- Community awareness of prevention needs
- Existing efforts to meet those needs
What is Readiness?
Readiness is the degree to which a community is willing and prepared to address prevention needs. Factors that affect readiness include:
- Knowledge of the substance use problem
- Existing efforts to address the problem
- Availability of local resources
- Support of local leaders
- Community attitudes toward the problem
Why Assess Resources and Readiness?
Assessing a community’s capacity to address substance misuse is a key part of the prevention planning process. Understanding local capacity, including resources and readiness for prevention, can help you do the following:
- Make realistic decisions about which prevention needs your community is prepared to address
- Identify resources you are likely to need, but don’t currently have, to address identified prevention needs
- Develop a clear plan for building and mobilizing capacity (SPF Step 2) to address identified prevention needs
Assessing community readiness, in particular, helps prevention professionals determine whether the time is right and whether there is social momentum towards addressing the issue or issues, they hope to tackle. Community readiness is just as important in addressing community needs as having tangible resources in place.
A well-planned and focused assessment will produce far more valuable information than one that casts a wide net. To that end, it’s helpful to focus assessments on relevant resources that are related to your priority problem(s). At the same time, keep in mind that useful and accessible resources may also exist outside of the substance use prevention system. Many organizations, including state and government agencies, universities, and nonprofit groups, are also working to reduce the impact of substance use and other behavioral health problems.
To assess readiness for prevention, it is often helpful to speak, one-on-one, with local decision makers and public opinion leaders. If people with access to critical prevention resources are not onboard, then it will be important to find ways early on to increase their level of readiness.
Readiness assessments should reflect the readiness of all sectors of the community. To do this, you must engage in a culturally competent assessment process that involves working with representatives from across community sectors in assessment planning. It also means collecting data, across sectors, in ways that are appropriate and respectful. Ultimately, the assessment should include information about:
- The cultural and ethnic make-up of the community
- How problems are perceived among different sectors of the community
- Who has been engaged in previous prevention efforts
- Existing barriers to participation in prevention efforts
Publications and Resources
- Stages of Community Readiness
- Readiness Assessments Help Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders’ Council Promote Prevention Services
- Tools to Assess Community Readiness to Prevent Substance Misuse