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Assessing Your Communities Talk Activity

A Communities Talk to Prevent Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse activity should be part of a community’s overall substance use and misuse prevention strategy. Strategic prevention plans are based on a community’s specific challenges related to alcohol and other drug misuse, as well as that community’s needs, capacity, and readiness to respond.

Communities should collect and carefully analyze data to understand:

  • Underlying needs and conditions that must be addressed to prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug misuse among 12- to 25-year olds;
  • Resources that are required or available to move prevention forward; and
  • Goals, target populations, and desired outcomes for the community.

The results of your overall substance use and misuse prevention assessment should guide the development of your Communities Talk activity.

Assessment Steps

Consider these steps as you start to plan a Communities Talk activity:

  • Convene an assessment committee or workgroup of diverse community stakeholders;
  • Create a data collection plan, which can be a focus group or even a simple survey of a select segment of the community;
  • Collect data on alcohol and other drug misuse rates in your state or region through the State Profiles and the state and district comparisons to national data included in the Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Summaries, then identify any gaps in data;
  • Analyze the data and use it to inform the content and planning of your activity;
  • Implement the plan; and
  • Create a process to evaluate the outcome of your Communities Talk activity. Sending the same survey six months or one year later can show if the results you expected from your Communities Talk prevention activity are emerging.

Assessment Tools

  • SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework has information about the five steps of effective strategic planning, including details about conducting assessments.
  • Several federal agencies maintain websites and databases on substance use and misuse and its consequences. Check "Reports" and "Websites" in the search box to the left to explore these resources.
  • SAMHSA's Focus on Prevention provides more information about the value and process of conducting a community assessment as the foundation for effective action.

Data Resources

  • State profiles are brief summaries of prevalence, consequences, and state prevention policies and programs taken from SAMHSA's annual Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking. They are useful for community and state comparisons.
  • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors priority health behaviors and experiences among middle school and high school students across the country. Included are state and district data on the number of youth who began drinking before the age of 13, the largest number of drinks they had in a row, and whether they drove when they had been drinking.
  • Monitoring the Future measures drug and alcohol use and related attitudes among adolescent and college students nationwide. Participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month.

Next, read Planning Your Communities Talk Activity.