BEE HEARD: Community readiness assessment 

Photo Credit: Native Connections

Substance use prevention on the Southern Ute Rez 

Talking about substance use, what it is and how to prevent it. It’s not a secret and it’s most certainly not something to be ashamed of – substance use and addiction are very real. We as Native Americans have had our fair share of substance use and addiction in our communities and even with our family members and friends. 

However, we don’t hear a lot of conversation about substance use and addiction, about what they are and how to prevent them. There are many reasons behind this, but the one we’ll focus on here in this article is a lack of data or set points we as the community can use to address the issue of substance use and prevention here on the Southern Ute Reservation. How do we know what the community thinks or feels about this issue? How do we address the issue and create effective and sustainable change? Are we ready to address this issue? 

One way to help us answer some of these questions is to use what is called the Community Readiness Model and the Community Readiness Assessment tool. Let’s talk about this more. 

What is the Community Readiness Model?

The Southern Ute Native Connections Program has been tasked to use the Community Readiness Model and an assessment tool to determine the community’s “readiness” to act on an issue, such as prevention around suicide, child abuse, partner violence or in this case, substance use. This model has been used in various Native American communities because it allows community definition of issues and strategies that are culturally appropriate. The model also allows us to build cooperation among tribal systems and individuals to increase the capacity of substance use prevention and intervention on the reservation. 

What does “readiness” mean? Readiness is the degree to which a community is prepared to act on an issue, and in our case, it will be around substance use prevention. In order to be successful, it is very important that we match our level of readiness to our intervention efforts. Our interventions or the strategies we select to address this issue must move our community forward to higher readiness levels step by step. It’s also important that we get as many sectors, departments, programs, tribal and community members involved to maximize our chances of success. 

What are the dimensions and stages of readiness? When we conduct the Community Readiness Assessment for Substance Use on the Southern Ute Reservation, we are looking at six different dimensions. They are:

A. Community efforts: To what extent are there efforts, programs, and policies that address Substance Use Prevention?

B. Community knowledge of the efforts: To what extent do community members knownabout local efforts and their effectiveness, and are the efforts accessible to all segments of the community?

C. Leadership: To what extent are appointed leaders and influential community members supportive of Substance Use Prevention?

D. Community climate: What is the prevailing attitude of the community toward Substance Use Prevention? Is it one of helplessness or one of responsibility and empowerment?

E. Community knowledge about the issue: To what extent do community members know about or have access to information on Substance Use Prevention, its consequences, and understand how it impacts your community?

F. Resources related to the issue: To what extent are local resources (people, time, money, space) available to support the prevention efforts?

The stages of readiness are as follow:

  • No Awareness: Substance use is not generally recognized by the community or leaders as a problem (or it may truly not be an issue.)
  • Denial/Resistance: At least some community members recognize that substance use is a concern, but there is little recognition that it might be occurring locally.
  • Vague Awareness: Most feel that there is local concern, but there is no immediate motivation to do anything about it.
  • Preplanning: There is clear recognition that something must be done, and there may even be a group addressing it. However, efforts are not focused or detailed.
  • Preparation: Active leaders begin planning in earnest. Community offers modest support of efforts.
  • Initiation: Enough information is available to justify efforts. Activities are underway.
  • Stabilization: Activities are supported by administrators or community decision makers. Staff are trained and experienced.
  • Confirmation/Expansion: Efforts are in place. Community members feel comfortable using services, and they support expansions. Local data are regularly obtained.
  • High Level of Community Ownership: Detailed and sophisticated knowledge exists about substance use and substance use prevention, prevalence and consequences. Effective evaluation guides new directions. Model is applied to other issues.

What is our community readiness score based on the Feb. 2021 assessment? 

The Southern Ute Native Connections Program completed 19 anonymous and thorough assessments with people representing many sectors of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and community, including Southern Ute tribal members (different ages groups), tribal employees (different departments and programs), local Native Americans, and youth-serving organizations. After completing these assessments, our overall stage of readiness is 4.24, out of a total score of 9.99. This score puts us in the #4 Preplanning Stage. As a reminder, the Preplanning Stage is defined as “There is clear recognition that something must be done, and there may even be a group addressing it. However, efforts are not focused or detailed.”

Our goal is to increase our scores for each dimension by working with the tribal membership, community members, departments and programs. We want to create an action plan to increase our efforts around substance use prevention. We also want to complete an assessment each year to determine if our efforts are working. 

Now, we must address what we are currently doing and develop a strategy to move into the next stage of readiness, which is the #5 Preparation Stage. This is defined as “Active leaders begin planning in earnest. Community offers modest support of efforts.” We need as many people as possible to help us create long-term changes for the future generations of healthy Ute people and local Native Americans. 

Community meetings are scheduled to discuss our scores and substance use prevention. To find out more about our scores and to brainstorm strategies to address substance use on the Southern Ute Reservation, please contact Precious Collins at 970-563-2487 or We will be hosting two community meetings to present our community readiness assessment scores and to also give people a chance to add their input. Dates of the meetings will be Tuesday, March 2, 5:30 – 7 p.m. and Thursday, March 4, 5:30 – 7 p.m. Meetings will be held virtually via Zoom. 

Your input, your experience, your hopes and dreams matter in these efforts. Please help be a part of positive community change to address substance use on the Southern Ute Reservation. 

References: SAMHSA Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center: Community Readiness Manual on Substance Use in Native American Communities, 

Want to help and be a part of the change?

Looking for community members and youth to join the Prevention Coalition tasked to reduce youth substance usage, eliminate mental health stigma, and start the discussion around suicide and prevention. 

We are going virtual! For more information please contact Precious Collins, Native Connections Program Coordinator for more information 970-563-2487. 

Upcoming Training:

FREE online Suicide Prevention Training – Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) for Southern Ute Tribe Employees, and Southern Ute Tribal Members. Let’s all learn the warning signs and what to do if someone is experiencing a crisis. Please contact Precious Collins at 970-563-2487 or email to sign up.


  • Southern Ute Health Center: Behavior Health; 69 Capote Dr., Ignacio, CO 970-563-4581. For local Native Americans. Call to schedule a counseling appointment. 
  • Southern Ute Division of Social Services: 116 Capote Drive, Ignacio, CO 970-563-2331 for local Native Americans needing assistance with child welfare needs and family support. 
  • 24/7 Axis Health System Care Hotline: Durango, CO You’re not alone. With our 24/7 crisis services, help is on the way. Your health, we’re in this together. 970-247-5245.
  • St. Ignatius Catholic Church: Pastor Cesar Arras, 14826 CO-172, Ignacio, CO 970-563-4241.
  • Ignacio Community Church: Pastor Randall Haynes 405 Browning Ave, Ignacio, CO (currently located inside ELHI) 970-759-3633 
  • Second Wind Fund of the Four Corners: Believes that every child and youth at risk of suicide should have access to the mental health treatment they need. We match children and youth at risk for suicide with licensed therapists in their communities, 720-962-0706.
  • Women’s Resource Center: Creates personal, social and professional growth opportunities for all women in La Plata County, 970-247-1242.


  • Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255 or Text “TALK” to 38255. You’ll immediately be put in contact with a trained counselor, ready to text with you about anything.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Has both an online chat and 24/7 phone line at 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking of suicide or need help for a loved one.
  • The Trevor Project: Which seeks to serve LGBT youth, has a 24/7 suicide prevention line at 866-488-7386.
  • WeRNative: Join the  movement by liking them on Facebook (, signing up for the text messaging service (text NATIVE to 24587).
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