Data to Action, Part 2

Last week we introduced the first part in an ongoing series highlighting communities who successfully translated data to action. Now we continue the series with two stories, one a First 5 Commission working on behalf of children ages 0-5 and a second on County Drug and Alcohol Department.

How Does First 5 Benefit from a Community Assessment Project?


According to Vicki Boriak, Program Officer for First 5 Santa Cruz County, they use the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project to:

  1. Look at the strengths and the gaps in well-being for children ages 0-5 and then create a strategic plan in light of those factors.
  2. Guide First 5’s own program priorities.
  3. Guide how First 5 makes grants to partner agencies.
  4. Track how well their funded programs are doing.
  5. Apply for and receive foundation grants, especially in the area of providing and improving child care for infants and toddlers.
  6. Write articles about children’s health and well-being.


You can access the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment, now in its 20th year on ASR’s website. The 20th edition of the report will be released in November, so stay tuned! To be in contact with First 5 Santa Cruz County, please click here.


Santa Cruz County Alcohol and Drug Services Department Uses Community Assessment Data to Turn the Curve on Substance Abuse and Change their Strategies


“Adding one more bar or one more liquor store on a block, increases the chances of violence on that block,” according to Brenda Armstrong, Prevention Program Manager at Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (HSA). Ms. Armstrong is citing data from a study in Cleveland that found that adding one bar to a block would result in 3.38 more crimes committed on that block in a year.[1]

Ms. Armstrong is drawing on extensive research showing that people who have more access to liquor stores and bars are more likely to consume higher levels of alcohol, resulting in more violent crimes, such as murder, rape, and assault in addition to child maltreatment and child abuse.[2]


The increase in violent crime due to alcohol outlets is one reason why the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, Alcohol and Drug Program is tracking the number of alcohol outlets in a region, through the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project (CAP). The CAP also tracks the community perceptions about providing alcohol to underage youth, community acceptance of marijuana use, the use of prescription drugs, binge drinking, crime, and substance use by students and adults. County staff have analyzed the CAP data over time, and seen that some initial interventions to reduce youth drug and alcohol use worked very well, but after several years of focusing instead on community education about underage use, the numbers started to flatten or get worse again. This caused the department to change their strategies.


Instead of maintaining a primary focus on community education, staff of the Alcohol and Drug Services Department of Santa Cruz County applied for and received a federal grant to track crime and its connections with alcohol outlets in the city of Watsonville, and to conduct focus groups in neighborhoods to see how individuals and families are experiencing those issues. The County is pursuing solutions such as Conditioned Use Permits, where limits are placed around new alcohol licenses, hours of operations, training, and not selling alcohol pops or 40 ounce malt liquor. The Department is also considering a “Deemed Approve Ordinance” where new conditions may be placed on an outlet that already has an alcohol license but has violated their license. For more information, please contact Brenda Armstrong at


[1] U.S. Department of Justice, 2006. Alcohol and Violent Crime, What is the Connection? What Can Be Done? Retrieved at


[2] Pereira, G., Wood, L., Foster, S., & Haggar, F. (2013). Access to alcohol outlets, alcohol consumption and mental health. PLoS ONE 8(1): e53461. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053461; and Gruenewald et al. (1995). Ecological models of alcohol outlets and violent assaults: crime potentials and geospatial analysis. Society for the Study of Addiction, 2006.

Print Friendly and PDF