Volunteers are needed to form focus groups to research the top five health and human service needs identified in the Franklin County Community Assessment.

The survey, conducted by the United Way of Greater St. Louis for the Franklin County Area United Way, was completed this past fall, said Paula Obermark, United Way executive director.

The five needs identified in the assessment are as follows:

1. Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

2. Housing.

3. Employment.

4. Transportation.

5. Safety.

Obermark said with the major needs identified, the next step is to study and research each issue and then come up with recommendations on how to best meet those needs.

“These recommendations will serve as a guide for the United Way to help us determine which services are needed and to help us prioritize funding for the next 10 years,” she said. “That’s not to say that agencies and programs currently being funded that don’t fall into these areas won’t receive funding.”

Obermark said it’s important for the United Way to be aware of community needs which can change over time, and then respond accordingly.

Focus groups will be formed to address and research each topic, she said.

“Their suggestions on how to meet these needs will be recommended to the Franklin County Area United Way Board of Directors at the end of their study which is expected to take one year with one meeting each month,” Obermark explained.

Some leaders in the community who have practical experience or expertise in certain areas are being invited to participate as well.

“We really want to have a good balance of people on each focus group,” Obermark said. “We are looking for anyone who might be concerned about one of the issues or has personal experience that would be helpful. It’s also good to have objective observers because they can provide another perspective.”

The United Way hopes to have 12 to 15 people on each group, and United Way board members also have been asked to serve on a focus group. The meetings will be facilitated by a United Way staff member or board members.

“We’re excited to be at this point in the assessment,” Obermark said. “A lot of great ideas can come from these types of meetings.”

Anyone interested in participating in one of the focus groups is asked to attend an organizational meeting which will take place Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 4:30 p.m. at Washington City Hall, second floor conference room, 405 Jefferson St.

For more information, contact the Franklin County Area United Way office, 636-239-1018.