Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Step 1. Assess Needs

Assessment involves the systematic gathering and examination of data related to substance abuse and associated problems, as well as related conditions and consequences in the community. Assessing the problems means pinpointing where the problems are in the community, as well as the populations that are affected. It also means examining the conditions that put a community at risk and identifying conditions that can protect against those problems.

Practitioners engaged in a comprehensive assessment need to collect information related to:

  • Population needs, including levels of substance abuse and related problems
  • Available resources to support prevention efforts
  • Community readiness to address identified prevention problems or needs

Based on their assessment of need, resources, and readiness, practitioners at the State and community levels will identify one or more prevention priorities on which to focus their prevention efforts.

State Epidemiological Workgroups help prevention practitioners integrate data about the nature and distribution of substance use and related consequences into their assessment activities, so that prevention resources are used effectively and efficiently.

Many epidemiological workgroups have developed materials that relate to and/or describe their assessment processes. Links to these materials are contained on their respective state, tribe, or jurisdiction pages.


Developed under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies contract (Reference #HHSS277200800004C).

Related Resources, by Task

Understand role of epidemiological workgroup

Identify and collect data

Address data gaps and challenges

Assess needs of special or sub-populations

Develop a data-prioritization process

Assess readiness and resources

Monitor data trends to identify emerging needs