Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

SAMHSA's CAPT Explores How States and Jurisdictions Encourage Use of Community-level Epidemiological Data to Inform Decision-making

In March, staff from SAMHSA's CAPT collected examples of how States and Jurisdictions have promoted the use of local epidemiological data to drive sub-recipient community decision-making about what prevention interventions they will implement. Under the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG), sub-recipients are—in most cases—expected to figure out what drives State-identified substance abuse problems in their communities (i.e., determine which risk and protective factors are most relevant) and to choose the factor(s) on which to focus interventions. In other cases, sub-recipients have the flexibility to choose among more than one SPF SIG priorities. But in either case, communities are expected to use local data to inform their decisions.  

The informal review revealed that States and Jurisdictions use a variety of strategies to encourage local use of data, including building regional-level infrastructure to support data use, filling data gaps, and developing tools and surveys—and that many are using multiple strategies, concurrently.

  • Building Regional-level Infrastructure to Support Data Use. Related activities included: funding local epidemiological workgroups (LEWs) in each county, accompanied by training and technical assistance (T/TA) to support LEW form and function;  developing and disseminating county-level epidemiological profiles to augment data collected by the State Epidemiological Workgroup; convening learning communities to promote consistency in epidemiological profile development and teach sub-recipients how to use State-level data profiles to inform prevention planning; and developing web sites where LEWs can access region-specific data.
  • Filling Data Gaps. Related activities included: developing surveys to collect region-specific data (e.g., on substances specific to certain regions, like betel nuts and tuba in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands); disaggregating data by classifying “American Indian” as its own racial category on school surveys; and convening task forces and workgroups to examine data gaps at the State and sub-State levels for specific populations, such as Native Americans, veterans, older populations, and individuals with mental health issues.
  • Developing Tools and Surveys. Several States and Jurisdictions created detailed workbooks and guidance documents, accompanied by technical assistance, to help sub-recipient communities expand their local needs assessment (including assessing and selecting priority substance abuse consumption patterns, consequences, and associated intervening variables), conduct a resource assessment, describe past efforts to address identified problems, and identify causal factors present in their communities. Many of these tools were accompanied by sample plans, examples from other States, and user-friendly templates. 


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