Kentucky Association of Counties

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Kentucky Association of Counties


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A roadmap to healing: The crucial role of needs assessments in opioid abatement planning

Identifying your community’s specific challenges can help determine how best to utilize funding

Navigating the legal and regulatory landscape of opioid settlement fund distribution is complex. The funding that local governments will continue to receive over the next several years from drug manufacturers and pharmacy operators is unlike any other funding or grant program used by public entities. Counties and cities must use settlement funds on opioid abatement efforts, but with so many options available, many local government officials are wondering where to begin.

Planning for success

Needs assessments are a critical starting point for allocating opioid abatement funds because they can provide a comprehensive understanding of the opioid crisis at the local level, identify high-need areas and populations, target resources effectively, inform decision-making and engage stakeholders in collaborative efforts to comprehensively address the crisis. 

Identifying high-need areas

Needs assessments help identify communities and regions that are most affected by the opioid crisis. By analyzing data on opioid-related deaths, overdoses, hospitalizations, substance use disorder treatment admissions, and other relevant factors, decision-makers can pinpoint areas with the greatest need for intervention and support. 

Understanding local factors

Each community has unique characteristics and challenges related to opioid misuse and addiction. Needs assessments provide insights into local factors such as demographics, socioeconomic status, availability of treatment and prevention services, access to healthcare, and prevalence of risk factors like unemployment or homelessness. Understanding these factors is crucial for tailoring interventions to meet the specific needs of each community. 

Targeting resources effectively

Limited resources should be directed towards areas where they will have the greatest impact. Needs assessments help prioritize funding by identifying target populations, interventions, and geographic areas where resources can be most effectively utilized to prevent opioid misuse, provide treatment and recovery support, and address underlying risk factors. 

Informing decision-making

Needs assessments provide data-driven insights that inform decision-making processes at the local, state, and national levels. Policymakers, public health officials and community stakeholders can use the findings from needs assessments to develop strategic plans, allocate resources, implement evidence-based interventions, and monitor progress over time. 

Engaging stakeholders

Needs assessments involve collaboration with diverse stakeholders, including healthcare providers, community organizations, law enforcement agencies, policymakers, and individuals with lived experience. Engaging stakeholders in the assessment process fosters buy-in, collaboration and collective ownership of solutions, leading to more effective and sustainable outcomes. 

Community needs assessments are often administered by the local health department. Other potential partners in gathering and review data can include community-based organizations, hospitals, colleges/universities, social service agencies, research firms and others.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) Opioid Solutions Center worked with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health to develop a guide for conducting a needs assessment. Click here to download the guide.

For more information about community needs assessments or other opioid settlement topics, contact KACo Opioid Settlement Advisor Lauren Carr at or 502-223-7667.

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