We often think of sustainability as the ability to find another source of funding after an initial grant ends. But sustainability is not only about sustaining funds; it is also about sustaining the gains you have made in addressing a health problem—in this case, preventing or reducing opioid misuse. It means constantly building on your efforts by retaining and improving the strategies that are shown to be effective in achieving your identified outcomes, and discontinuing or modifying those that do not seem to be working as well. In addition to sustaining funds, you must also sustain the other factors that contribute to program success, including a stable prevention infrastructure, available training systems, and a strong base of community support.
Sustainability does not mean that an intervention must continue as originally designed or must be implemented by the same people as before. Rather, you should use your evaluation findings for continual, ongoing improvement. As you learn more about what works and does not work in your community, you may find it useful to bring in new partners and implement new strategies.
Here are some tips for increasing the sustainability of your intervention:28
- Think about sustainability from the beginning: Building support, showing results, and obtaining continued funding all take time. It is critical to think about who needs to be at the table from the beginning.
- Build ownership among stakeholders: The more invested stakeholders become, the more likely they will be to support prevention activities for the long term. Involve them early on and find meaningful ways to keep them involved. Stakeholders who are involved in the assessment process are more likely to support the strategies used to address the identified problems and to support this work over time.
- Track and share outcomes: A well-designed and well-executed evaluation will help you improve your efforts and show evidence of the effectiveness of your strategies. Share your outcomes with community members so that they can become champions of your efforts.
- Identify program champions who are willing to speak about and promote your prevention efforts.
- Invest in capacity—at both the individual and the systems levels. Teach people how to assess needs, build resources, plan and implement effective strategies, and create the systems necessary to support these activities over time.
- Identify diverse resources, including human, financial, material, and technological. Be sure to identify and tap as many of these as possible.