March 2018

Needs Assessment Survey Report

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Several months ago the Suffield Social Services Commission conducted a “town-wide needs survey.” The survey was meticulously developed and executed by the commission in an effort to learn more about our residents’ knowledge and experience with available public services, as well as where there may be gaps or needs. The survey was distributed to half of the town’s households randomly to gain an unbiased sampling of feedback with the generous support and assistance of the First Selectman’s Office. In all, 359 surveys with at least one answered question were returned and the responses were manually entered into a database created by Rob Brooks, the son of our commission Vice Chairman Bob Brooks.

So what did we learn you ask… Quite a bit actually, some of which was previously unknown information, as well as some confirmation of what was already known or anticipated. Approximately 30% of respondents reported having a dependent age 18 or younger living in their homes, and several subsequent questions asked specifically about Suffield’s youth. Surveys confirmed that the issues parents/guardians and other residents are most concerned about include substance use/abuse, bullying, and internet safety. We also learned that respondents feel that some issues not being addressed with our town’s youth include bullying, substance use/abuse, and the need for community-based after school, weekend, and summertime activities. However, in separate yes or no questions, 40% of total respondents, less than half, reported feeling that insufficient social/recreational and mental/behavioral health programming was available in town.

More than 40 other concerns were voiced as well, ranging from overuse of technology and lacking communication skills amongst youth, which may well be related, to concerns about poor parenting styles and gender identity/sexuality. We asked about what might prevent a parent from attending a parenting program in town, and respondents reported that scheduling conflicts and not knowing about such programs were the primary barriers.

When asked about the Suffield Emergency Aid Association, just under 30% or respondents reporting having used the services the association provides, but more than 60% report that they are aware of what is offered by the EAA, and 72% would know how to access their various services. Participants were also able to identify which programs they were most familiar with, see results on page 7.

Public Awareness of Town Services

Service Number Aware Percent Aware

a. General social service assistance

83 46.4

b. Elder Outreach Caseworker

48 26.8

c. Holiday Baskets/youth presents

94 52.5

d. Veteran subsidies

23 12.8

e. Meals On Wheels

119 66.5

f. Fuel Bank/Energy Assistance

98 54.7

g. Food Bank

113 63.1

h. Pet Food Bank

44 24.6

i. Medical equipment loan closet

100 55.9

j. Medical subsidies

23 12.8

k. Rental Rebate Program

25 14.0

l. Return to School Backpack Program

90 50.3

m. Blood Pressure Screening Clinics

54 30.2

n. Bereavement Support Group

34 19.0

o. Preschool Vision Screenings

28 15.6

p. Friendly Visitor/Shopper program

34 19.0

q. Camp Subsidies for youth

31 17.3

r. Senior Citizen lunch subsidies

38 21.2

s. Jane P Fuller Scholarship

28 15.6

t. James Coggins Jr. Comm. Svc. Award

29 16.2

Respondents also reported that they did know how to access services at the EAA if needed, though just over 88 percent reported that they didn’t feel there were any services that were needed but were unavailable. For those that aren’t aware, the Suffield EAA is contracted by the town, and competently facilitates the above programs, and several others for those in need, not all of which are exclusively for low income residents. For more information, visit www.suffieldeaa.org, or call 860-668-1986.

Of 307 responses, just 11.7  percent report having utilized Suffield’s mini-bus transportation service. 75 percent of its patrons report that the minibus provides satisfactory service, and more than 70 percent report awareness of the service, even though they may or may not have utilized it. When asked, respondents reported that they felt that the addition of both weekend and evening transportation options would better meet the needs of those eligible to use the service. The Suffield mini bus serves residents 60 years of age or older and those that are permanently handicapped, and offers weekday transportation to medical appointments, the senior center, social events, shopping trips, and other destinations that patrons might otherwise not be able to access. The Mini Bus is a free service, though a $35 annual donation is recommended, and according to survey results more than 93 percent of respondents believe this to be a fair donation, though suggestions were submitted recommending this amount be both increased and decreased, which is as expected.

With almost 33 percent of respondents reporting having used the Suffield Senior Center, we were able to gain a pretty well represented sampling of feedback. We learned that a majority of residents believed that many of the programs already being offered at the senior center were “very important”, including exercise and health programming, as well as financial assistance presentations, meals, trips/recreation, educational presentations, and art among others. Residents also reported that a majority were unaware that the Senior Center offers lunchtime meals five days a week, all of which are prepared onsite. When asked what programs or activities might entice non-users to visit the Senior Center, the results mirrored the existing programs that respondents felt were most important:

Senior Center Programs of Interest to the Public

Program Number Interested Percent Interested

a. Exercise programs

81 51.9

b. Health workshops

52 33.3

c. Financial/legal workshops

50 32.1

d. Social programming

35 22.4

e. Free services (tax preparation/notary public/etc.)

67 42.9

f. Access to computers and/or WiFi

30 19.2

g. Meals (breakfast/lunch/soup)

37 23.7

h. Free health screenings

67 42.9

i. Art projects

37 23.7

Other

30 19.2

So if you or a family member are an older adult (no age restrictions) and have been contemplating a visit to the Senior Center, it might be time to stop by, because they are likely already offering something that you would enjoy and benefit from. For more information about the Suffield Mini Bus or the Suffield Senior Center, visit www.suffieldct.gov or call 860-668-3844.

We felt it was important to learn how our residents prefer to learn about available resources and programming in town, so we asked:

Communicating Availability of Town Resources

Communication Method Number Approving Percentage Approving

a. Picking up a newsletter

52 17.7

b. Newsletter by mail

171 58.2

c. Reading the newspaper

88 29.9

d. Email

115 39.1

e. Accessing a website

115 39.1

f. Brochure

35 11.9

g. Outdoor signage

43 14.6

h. Text messaging

20 6.8

i. Social Media

49 16.7

j. Phone/voicemail

20 23.7

k. Other

30 19.2

This feedback will be used to guide future outreach and advertising efforts, allowing us to reach as many residents as possible when there is important news, monthly events calendars, and newsletters to share.

If you have questions, additional feedback, or want to learn more please feel free to join the Suffield Social Services Commission at one of our monthly meetings, which take place at the Suffield Senior Center on the second Thursday of each month, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Please feel free to direct any questions or comments you may have to my attention at robbie220@aol.com and I will gladly present them to the commission for further discussion.

The results included above represent the relevant data that was collected, and does not include written comments from the surveys which were both non-qualitative and non-quantitative.

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