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Prevention Needs Assessment
for City of Richmond

Faye Z. Belgrave
Department of Psychology

What were the objectives of the project?

The objectives of this project were to (1) enhance and improve the learning experiences for graduate students enrolled in the Program Evaluation seminar; (2) to provide a mechanism by which students could apply knowledge learned by addressing community needs thereby increasing their employment marketability and their opportunity to provide service to the Richmond community; (3) to provide needed evaluation consultation to the Richmond community, especially organizations that are prevention focused. These objectives are consistent with those of the department of psychology, the College of Humanities and Sciences, and the University to integrate teaching, research, and community service in the training of our students.

Students in this class conducted a comprehensive Prevention Needs Assessment in partnership with Friends for Prevention. Other participating organizations included Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, the Richmond Public School System, and the Richmond Human Service Commission.


In the Spring of 2001, I taught a Program Evaluation course for the first time at VCU. Building upon previous experience teaching the course, I knew that an important feature of this course would be the opportunity for students to develop "real world" evaluation skills and produce a usable document. Thus one requirement of the course was for students to participate in conducting a Needs Assessment in collaboration with Friends for Prevention. The mission of Friends of Prevention is to collaboratively enhance the effectiveness of prevention services in the City of Richmond. The goals of Friends of Prevention are to identify gaps in prevention services, to access funding to implement prevention services, and to coordinate prevention services.

Friends of Prevention is a coalition comprised of over 50 members representing diverse agencies and organizations in the City. Some of these organizations include Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (the host for Friends of Prevention), Richmond Public Schools, Richmond Metro Boys and Girls Club, Richmond Human Service Commission, Parks and Planning, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Chamber of Commerce, Youth Connect, Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, YWCA, Richmond Drug Treatment Court, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Friends of Prevention is the local planning coalition for substance abuse programs and required by the State to conduct a needs assessment every two years. Our class in collaboration with Friends of Prevention conducted this needs assessment during the Spring of 2001. Two reports were generated - an Executive Summary and a Comprehensive Needs Assessment Report. These documents were widely distributed and used by several agencies in the city for planning and grant writing purposes.

I requested funded for the Spring of 2003 from the Center for Teaching Excellence to expand upon the Needs Assessment that was done previously and to more substantially involve students in all phases of conducting the Needs Assessment. For example, in conducting the previous Needs Assessment focus groups audio-tapes were not transcribed because of the lack of funds for transcription efforts.

What we did during the Spring of 2003

The Needs Assessment was one of several class requirements (e.g., readings, papers, other class projects) but I will only discuss on the Needs Assessment in this report. Graduate students (Renee Alleyne, Cheryl Bennett, Christina Grange, Vonnetta Hedgepeth, Tiffany Stowe, and Heather Williamson) and I worked closely with Charlene Edwards, the coordinator of Friends for Prevention in planning and implementing the Needs Assessment. Also Larry Everette from the Safe and Nurturing School office of Richmond Public Schools worked with us as well as Delores Dalton of the Richmond Human Services Commission. Two students (and I) attended the monthly Friends of Prevention meeting and received on-going advice and feedback regarding the progress of the Needs Assessment from coalition members. Additionally, Charlene Edwards attended and participated in several of our class meetings devoted to the Needs Assessment. Larry Everette participated in some class meetings.

A decision was made to gather and present prevalence and incidence data on the incidence of social and problematic behaviors (considered risk factors) as well as protective factors in the following domains: community, school, family, individual, public safety, and alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD). Data were gathered from several national, state, and local data sources (e.g., U.S. census, State Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse, Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce). Examples of each domain and type of indicator data are summarized below:

  1. Community: The Net Migration indicator refers to the number of new residents who moved into an area minus the number of residents who moved out per 1,000. It serves as an indicator of the level of stability of a neighborhood or community.
  2. School: Truancy rates is the percentage of students who have missed more than 10 days of school during a school year. Truancy predicts student dropout.
  3. Family: Children Living Away from Parents is defined as the number of children (aged 0-17) living in home situations other than with one or both of their parents or guardians per 1000 children.
  4. Individual: Adolescent Childbearing (ages 10-17) refers to those adolescent individuals who became pregnant and gave birth per 1,000 adolescents in this age group.
  5. ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco, and other Drugs): Adult arrests for drug-related crimes refers to the number of adults per 100,000 population arrested for drug-related crimes including possession, sale, use, growing, and manufacturing of illegal drugs.
  6. Public safety: Juvenile arrests for vandalism refers to the rate of juveniles (ages 10-14) arrested for acts of vandalism, including damage to private or public residences, non-residences, and vehicle-venerated objects per 1,000 juveniles.

Additionally, focus groups were conducted with individuals who provide diverse prevention services to youth and families. About 50 professionals who work in the field of prevention participated in seven focus groups. These included administrators, managers, prevention specialists, social workers, teachers, ministers etc. The focus groups elicited comments about prevention needs and solutions for youth and families in Richmond.

Students were trained in all aspects of conducting focus groups including developing the focus group protocol and questions, facilitating focus groups, and writing summary reports.

The Needs Assessment is organized into nine chapters as follows: (1) introduction and methodology; (2) community, (3) school, (4) family, (5) individual, (6) ATOD, (7) public safety, (8) youth perspectives; and (9) conclusion and recommendation. The Needs Assessment is under final review by Ms. Edwards and other representatives from Friends of Prevention and will be distributed widely within the City once it has been finalized. Additionally, the Needs Assessment will be available on several web-sites that provide information about services in the City of Richmond (Richmond Connect, VCU's Center for Cultural Experience in Prevention, Richmond Behavioral and Health Authority, etc.). See next two pages for draft cover page and table of contents.

How the Center for Teaching Excellence Helped

The Center for Teaching Excellence provided support for activities that strengthened the Needs Assessment in several ways. We were able to purchase two tape recorders and supplies for the focus groups so that more than one person could do a focus group at one time. We also purchased a transcription machine for transcribing the focus groups. A large percentage of the funds were used to support hiring students who transcribed the focus group audio-tapes. Additionally, some funds were used to hire a student who worked with Ms. Edwards and me in compiling and editing the document.

For Further Information

Please contact Faye Z. Belgrave at fzbelgra@vcu.edu or Charlene Edwards at Edwardsc@rbha.org

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