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The key to learning your community’s needs on underage drinking prevention is to do a needs assessment. A needs assessment is the first step in SAMHSA’s five-step Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF), a community-based approach to prevention. The SPF uses a step-by-step process to help communities identify, manage, and evaluate their substance abuse prevention and mental health needs. Communities follow these five steps:

1. Assessment - Profiling needs and response capacity. 2. Capacity - Mobilizing and building needed capacity. 3. Planning - Developing a prevention plan. 4. Implementation - Using programs, policies, and strategies based on what is known to be effective. 5. Evaluation - Considering program effectiveness and sustaining what works well.

To help organizations conduct needs assessments and launch effective prevention programs, SAMHSA’s Communities That Care Community Planning System SAMHSA Exit Disclaimer Page offers a valuable approach to creating a safer community.

The most important reason to do a needs assessment is to make sure you understand the concerns of community members from their points of view. Their priorities should be your priorities.