Assessing the existing resources that may be dedicated to addressing the substance misuse and abuse problem and your community’s readiness to do so will help you identify the most appropriate and feasible prevention strategies to implement in your community.
Identifying and assessing the resources that exist to address substance misuse and abuse in your community will help you identify potential resource gaps, build support for prevention activities, and ensure a realistic match between identified needs and available resources.
The word resources often connotes staff, financial support, and a sound organizational structure. However, prevention resources may also include the following:
- Existing community efforts to address the prevention and reduction of substance misuse and abuse
- Community awareness of those efforts
- Specialized knowledge of prevention research, theory, and practice
- Practical experience working with particular populations
- Knowledge of the ways that local politics and policies help or hinder prevention efforts
It is important to focus your assessment on relevant resources (i.e., those related to your priority problem). A well-planned and focused assessment will produce far more valuable information than one that casts too wide a net. At the same time, keep in mind that useful and accessible resources may also be found outside the substance abuse prevention system, including among the many organizations in your community that promote public health.
Assessing Community Readiness
An assessment of community readiness will help you determine your community’s level of awareness of, interest in, and ability and willingness to support substance misuse and abuse prevention initiatives.
Most experts in this field acknowledge that readiness occurs in stages. The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University, for example, has identified nine stages of community readiness:49
- Stage 1: Community tolerance / no knowledge. Substance misuse and abuse is generally not recognized by the community or leaders as a problem. “It’s just the way things are” is a common attitude. Community norms may encourage or tolerate the behavior in a social context. Substance misuse and abuse may be attributed to certain age, sex, racial, or class groups.
- Stage 2: Denial. There is some recognition by at least some members of the community that the behavior is a problem, but there is little or no recognition that it is a local problem. Attitudes may include “It’s not my problem” and “We can’t do anything about it.”
- Stage 3: Vague awareness. There is a general feeling among some in the community that there is a local problem and that something ought to be done, but there is little motivation to do anything. Knowledge about the problem is limited. No identifiable leadership exists, and/or leadership is not encouraged.
- Stage 4: Pre-planning. Many folks clearly recognize that there is a local problem and that something needs to be done. There is general information about local problems and some discussion. There may be leaders and a committee to address the problem, but no real planning or clear idea of how to progress.
- Stage 5: Preparation. The community has begun planning and is focused on practical details. There is general information about local problems and about the pros and cons of prevention programs, but this information may not be based on formally collected data. Leadership is active and energetic. Decisions are being made, and resources (time, money, people, etc.) are being sought and allocated.
- Stage 6: Initiation. Data are collected that justify a prevention program; however, decisions may be based on stereotypes rather than data. Action has just begun. Staff are being trained. Leaders are enthusiastic, as few problems or limitations have occurred.
- Stage 7: Institutionalization/stabilization. Several planned efforts are underway and supported by community decision-makers. Programs and activities are seen as stable, and staff are trained and experienced. Few see the need for change or expansion. Evaluation may be limited, although some data are routinely gathered.
- Stage 8: Confirmation/expansion. Efforts and activities are in place, and community members are participating. Programs have been evaluated and modified. Leaders support expanding funding and program scope. Data are regularly collected and are used to drive planning.
- Stage 9: Professionalization. The community has detailed, sophisticated knowledge of the prevalence of the problem and related risk and protective factors. Universal, selective, and indicated efforts are in place for a variety of focus populations. Staff are well-trained and experienced. Effective evaluation is routine and used to modify activities. Community involvement is high.
There are many resources available to measure community readiness. We recommend Community Readiness for Community Change: Tri-Ethnic Center Community Readiness Handbook, which provides guidance for conducting both brief and in-depth readiness assessments, depending on your group’s preference.