The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board Behavioral Health and Wellness department just completed their Community Needs Assessment, read the full report.

When it comes to prevention, the goal is always population level change. In order to do that, you must first know your population, and what your community’s needs are.  To this end, our Behavioral Health and Wellness department has just finished conducting a thorough Community Needs Assessment to study the substance use of youth ages 13 -18 in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg City.

What is a Needs Assessment

A needs assessment is a systematic process used to profile population needs, resources, and readiness. The review and collection of community-level data is incredibly important when considering data-driven rationale for substance abuse prevention planning and implementation. Data-driven decision making will help ensure that appropriate issues are targeted and that the appropriate target geographic area and target populations are identified.

The Data

Reviewing and understanding the needs through data eliminates guessing. Certainly there is a place for anecdotal information, but relying on data allow for more analysis into the size, scope and the depth of potential problems.  With the data guiding the strategy choices, agencies tailor strategies to individual communities and specific needs.  Rather than the state mandating a strategy, data driven decision making allows for each community and agency to address the needs and resources specific to their populations.

Data is also used when developing goals and objectives to address identified needs. This allows agencies the ability to track the progress of selective strategies.  If the objectives being met based on identified data sources, such as the Youth PRIDE Data Survey, then the strategies are a good fit.  If those objectives aren’t being met based on the timeframe, however, then a new strategy can be selected in a timely manner.

For our area, three substances emerged as potential problem areas: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Marijuana. With 32.8% of youth reporting that they’ve used alcohol within the past year, it is the most used substance within our area. Our area’s 30-day cigarette use (11%) is higher that both the state and national averages.  In the span of two years, marijuana’s perception of harm has fallen 12%, and the perception of availability has increase; this would leave us to believe that in the future, the percentage of youth using will also increase if left unaddressed.


From evaluating this data, the community readiness assessment, and the community resource assessment, the following conclusions were made: Though most of the community would passively support youth substance use prevention, there are few resources that are currently addressing this issue on a large environmental scale. That could be due to the community’s lack of knowledge about existing efforts and in-depth knowledge of the issues, which could contribute an environment that is making alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use more easily accessible, and youth use more socially acceptable.

With this information, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board’s Behavioral Health and Wellness department will be better equipped to address the community’s needs when it comes to youth substance abuse prevention.

Brandy Haden
M.Ed., Behavioral Health and Wellness Coordinator 
Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board