Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16652 Community Coalitions, Needs Assessments, and Environmental Strategies: How to Create Sustainable Change Using a National Substance Abuse Prevention Framework

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 5:00 PM
Penn Quarter B (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Kristen Powell, MSW, PhD Candidate, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Cory M. Morton, MSW, PhD Student, Rutgers University, New York, NY
Donald K. Hallcom, PhD, Director of Prevention and Early Intervention, New Jersey Department of Human Services, Trenton, NJ
N. Andrew Peterson, PhD, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Background and Purpose: The Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) is a national, data-driven, public-health model developed by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention to prevent substance use and related consequences through extensive coalition building and implementation of effective, community-level environmental strategies determined by an extensive needs assessment. Sustainability is vital and incorporated within each step of the SPF. For example, the needs assessment is conceptualized as an ever-evolving process where initial data collection forms the base for future work. The established community coalition is intended to become a sustainable force in the community to maintain and continue the prevention work, through secured funding, policy reform, inter-group collaboration, and strategy implementation.

This study examines the community-level process among awarded agencies and their coalitions within New Jersey to understand how the data-driven needs assessment led to the implementation of appropriate interventions that will generate sustainable, community-level impact on substance abuse consumption patterns and related consequences.

Methods: The sample for this study is comprised of eleven New Jersey community agencies and their partners awarded SPF grants. Secondary data used for this study included participant observation, submitted reports, and infrastructure and fidelity survey data collected during the steps of needs assessment and strategic planning of environmental strategies. Thematic content analysis was conducted using these data sources.

Results: Six (55%) grantees identified arrests for driving under the influence and five (46%) identified alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes as targeted consequence variables. Eight (72%) grantees considered coalition building as the primary means for developing a sustainable SPF in their communities. While the power of collaboration was frequently reported as a success, the lack of reliable community-level data was most frequently reported as a barrier to the SPF process. This study describes how these agencies established sustainable coalitions, conducted data-driven needs assessments, and began implementing environmental alcohol prevention strategies. For example, one grantee's needs assessment resulted in the use of geographical data containing liquor outlet density with alcohol-related motor vehicle crash data to inform their strategy selection of a media campaign and beverage server trainings in order to create sustainable, population-based change in their community. This paper presents the processes and infrastructure established within the agencies and follows their logic models from variable identification to selected interventions.

Conclusions: This paper illustrates how coalitions can conduct data-driven needs assessments which inform their selected environmental interventions within their communities. Comparison communities were not included so broad generalizations beyond New Jersey were not made. However, a significant implication from this study is the possibility of extending the SPF to a statewide model. The goal of the SPF is to make a structural and sustainable change to the way prevention is implemented at the community level. Understanding how coalitions use an extensive data-driven process to inform their substance abuse prevention interventions in a manner that also sustains over time will contribute to the formalization of the SPF model statewide. With more community coalitions implementing the SPF, the model will become sustainable, and statewide consequences from substance use and abuse will decrease over time.