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Center for Social Health & Well-being


St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court: Participants’ and stakeholders’ views on how to improve graduation rates for individuals who have opioid use disorders #

Drug courts have been an important part of the criminal justice system since 1989. They continue to expand throughout the United States because nearly three decades of evidence has shown that they are more effective at reducing criminal recidivism than other interventions, such as traditional probation. However, little is known about how drug courts serve participants who have opioid use disorders and how those participants view the program. Furthermore, there are no known qualitative studies that have explored the use of medication-assisted treatments (MATs) in drug courts, and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) has suggested that some drug courts are unwilling to allow participants on MATs, despite evidence of their effectiveness at reducing or eliminating opioid use, decreasing or eliminating criminality, and improving functioning and overall quality of life. The St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court, for example, until recently, did not allow participants to use methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone). Moreover, a 2016 program evaluation of the St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court, led by Dr. John Gallagher, found that participants who had opioid use disorders were less likely to graduate than participants who had other substance use disorders. This qualitative study contributes to the existing knowledge base by facilitating individual interviews with participants, who have an opioid use disorder, and stakeholders of the St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court. Stakeholders will include the drug court judge, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, social workers, treatment providers, and case managers, to name a few. The individual interviews will be guided by a phenomenological approach with the goal of developing an in-depth understanding of drug court from participants’ and stakeholders’ experiences in drug court, with a focus on the use of MATs in treating opioid use disorders. This study will explore what interventions are perceived as most helpful in treating opioid use disorders, identifying the barriers to treating opioid use disorders, and participants’ lived experiences with utilizing MATs to support their recovery. This study is timely, especially because our country is experiencing negative consequences related to opioids, such as increased rates of overdoses and deaths. Additionally, this will be the first known qualitative study to explore participants’, who have opioid use disorders, experiences in drug court and stakeholders’ views on the use of MATs in treating opioid use disorders. Last, the long-term objective of this study is to secure larger grants to complete a statewide evaluation of all Indiana drug courts.

Predictors of Graduation and Criminal Recidivism in an Indiana Drug Court: Promote Smart Decarceration

Building on a previous qualitative study this quantitative study is designed to predict drug court graduation and recidivism outcomes, and compares the effectiveness of drug court to a matched probation group at reducing criminal recidivism.

Drug courts have been a key part of the criminal justice system since 1989. Social workers can make significant contributions to drug courts, especially because they operate in a non-adversarial, strengths-based, and rehabilitative manner, all notable characteristics of social work practice. This research study is aligned with the Grand Challenges for Social Work, specifically the grand challenge focused on promoting smart decarceration. There is a plethora of research highlighting that drug courts are more effective than traditional criminal justice interventions, such as probation, at reducing criminal recidivism rates. The body of research is clear, drug courts work. The gap in research, however, is that less is known about who benefits most from drug court. As drug courts continue to expand throughout the United States of American (U.S.A.), as well as internationally, it is important to assess how an already effective program (when compared to traditional criminal justice interventions) can be enhanced for the women and men who participate in the program. Some studies, for instance, have suggested that African American participants were less likely to graduate and more likely to recidivate than their white counterparts. Furthermore, drug of choice seems to impact drug court outcomes. The U.S.A. is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic and drug courts can be a key intervention in minimizing and eventually eliminating the crisis. Previous research, however, has found that drug court participants who identify opioids as their drug of choice have poorer outcomes, when compared to participants who identify other drugs of choice. This research study will assess who benefits most from the St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court and offer suggestions to improve drug court programming. The research study has three goals. First, to identify who is most likely to graduate drug court. Second, to identify who is most likely to recidivate during and after drug court. Third, to assess which program, drug court or probation, is most effective at reducing criminal recidivism rates.

John Gallagher #

Adjunct Professor

As a social worker and researcher, Dr. John Gallagher became interested in this topic because he believes the criminal justice system, particularly drug courts, can make a significant contribution to combating the opioid epidemic in our country and help promote recovery for individuals who have an opioid use disorders. Additionally, the drug court model utilizes a non-adversarial, strengths-based approach in helping individuals who have substance use disorders, an approach that is clearly consist with social work values and ethics.

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This pilot project is developed to explores attitudes and decision-making process related to advance care planning (ACP) among Korean American older adults. ACP refers to a health care decision-making process that involves learning about, discussing and planning for end-of-life- care in the event that one is incapable of making a reasoned decision. Engagement in ACP is crucial because of its positive relationship with quality end-of-life care. With an increasing number of ethnic minority older adults in the U.S., there is a growing concern regarding ethnic/racial disparities in engagement in ACP. Culture could provide a unique context to form attitudes toward and prepare for end-of-life and thus, it is important to build culturally competent knowledge to effectively promote ACP for ethnic minority groups. Korean Americans, one of the fastest growing ethnic minority populations, consistently report low levels of engagement in and lack of knowledge of ACP. However, prior research has provided very limited evidence regarding ACP among this population. The aim of the study is to explore how Korean Americans view and engage in ACP. Non-experimental qualitative design will be employed. Focus group interviews will be conducted with Korean American older adults living in community using a semi-structured interview guide. The proposed pilot study would generate preliminary evidence to develop culturally tailored intervention programs to promote ACP among KAs.

Michin Hong #

Associate Professor

Throughout my previous research projects about caregiving, I have learned that all older adults and their family caregivers would eventually deal with end-of-life. Literature has consistently reported the positive influence of engagement in advance care planning on end-of-life care. However, despite its inevitability, there is a tendency to avoid discussions about end-of-life in general and culture plays an important role in accepting and preparing for end-of-life. So I am interested in identifying factors affecting engagement in advance care planning and promoting it in particular for ethnic minority groups who often report low engagement in and lack of awareness about advance care planning.

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The role of religion in bullying and the causes and consequences of religious bullying #

Bullying is a senseless physical or psychological abuse of an individual by a person or a group of people to create a pattern of abuse where a victim cannot defend him or herself. Since the 1990’s academic research on bullying of children and adolescents has been prevalent in the United States. However, there has been less research on religious bullying of children particularly from the Muslim community. Currently there are about 7 million Muslims living in the United States. The Pew Research Center, the Council of Islamic Relations, many other organizations, and individual researchers have found Muslims experiences of stigma and discrimination increased dramatically after 9/11, after the invasion of Iraq, with the growth of ISIS, and during our past election seasons due to heated rhetoric that was used by some politicians against Muslims. While there is a strong body of literature on discrimination towards American Muslims, there is still a major gap of knowledge about bullying experiences by Muslim students in public schools. Many Muslim families are worried about the safety of their children in public schools, concerned they are prime targets experience religious bullying by their peers at school. Unfortunately, evidence-based knowledge on religious bullying experiences of Muslim students in public schools is still scarce despite increased numbers of Muslim Americans living in the U.S. (Baadarani, 2016; Nadal et al, 2012). A qualitative research study will be conducted in Indiana to explore and document the occurrence of bullying to the extent to which religion plays a key role in bullying experiences, causes and consequences of religious bullying and with recommendations to address this.

Khadija Khaja #

Associate Professor

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Examining the relationships among parenting, racial-ethnic socialization and identity, and Black youth educational and mental health outcomes #

Research that examines the development of minority children growing up in the United States suggests that while every child’s development is dynamically linked to the proximal and distal processes in their social ecologies, minority children experience unique ecological circumstances—racism, stereotypes, discrimination and stigmatization— that are not shared by children in the mainstream. With specific reference to African American youth, these factors have been linked to negative outcomes in several domains including academic disengagement and subsequent underachievement, and mental and behavioral health problems, all of which affect the well-being of this population. The burgeoning research suggests that racial-ethnic socialization—the processes by which children are exposed to race-based messages and practices to influence the social significance of their racial status, inter and intra-group relationships—and subsequent racial identity—the subjective meaning ascribed to race in one’s self-concept—maybe promising mechanism to help Black youth achieve better educational and mental health outcomes. However, within the African American communities, there is a dearth of social work research about parenting, racial-ethnic socialization and racial-ethnic identity, and academic and mental health outcomes of African American youth. Additionally, significant gap exist in terms of how the extant research has sought to analyze conceptual understanding of the links between racial-ethnic socialization, racial-ethnic identity and African American youth academic and mental health. In response, using data from the Survey of American Life-Adolescent Supplement (NSAL-A), the current study seeks to apply social work lens to quantitatively investigate the interrelationships between parenting, racial-ethnic socialization and racial identity, and their influence on outcomes related to education and mental health of African American youth. Theoretically, from the perspective of integrated model of minority child development, this project is expected to generate knowledge to inform social work researchers and practitioners comprehensive understanding of protective and risk factors that potentially exist in the environmental contexts in which African American youth function. Practically, the study seeks to identify the process by which parenting and culturally protective factors within African American communities are linked to support youth’s optimal functioning. The current project has following aims. First, to investigate the mechanisms by which parenting, racial-ethnic socialization and racial-ethnic identity interrelate to influence youth youth’s school bonding. Second, to examine whether racial-ethnic identity buffer the effect of discrimination on the mental health of Black youth. Third, to examine effect of racial-ethnic self-mastery of Black youth through racial-ethnic identity.

Eric Kyere #

Assistant Professor

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Exploring violence against street children in Bangladesh: A cross-sectional study #

Street children are a group of extremely vulnerable and underprivileged children who are mostly visible in the street and public places of urban areas in developing countries and are engaged in informal economic activities in order to make a living for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, violence against street children is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. Their homeless status, livelihood efforts under a precarious informal economy, and overnight stay in public places increase the odds of abuse. Only a few qualitative studies have explored some aspects of children’s abuse experiences. There is little systematic knowledge that helps us to understand the prevalence and magnitude of this victimization and to inform practice and policy efforts to protect these children. Against this background, my present study, intends to accomplish two primary objectives: a) develop a validated scale of abuse focusing on street children in developing countries; and, b) measure various abuse experiences of street children in Bangladesh to inform research and policy. This study has been built on my three previous research projects on street children in Bangladesh. Data from my last qualitative project on street children’s social networks provided evidence that street children, in general, encounter multiple types of abuses. I plan to pilot it in Bangladesh and replicate in other South Asian countries through collaboration with local researchers.

Md Hasan Reza #

Associate Professor

I had an interesting encounter with street children almost a decade ago. I was buying some apples form a street vendor in Bangladesh and observed that a child, approximately 8 years old, was standing beside me. I think I was able to read him that he wants an apple. Usually, I used to ignore these calls however, somehow I was different on that day. I bought some apples and gave him one. He was hesitant to take it but when I offered him again, he took it and ran away. I was surprised that he ran away and didn’t understand why he did so. Anyway, I met him another day and we started to talking. I asked him why he ran the other day. He told me that he thought that I was ‘kidding’. He didn’t trust me that a “gentleman” like me would give him an apple. That was very eye opening for me. We talked and he taught me a lot about his life. This is when I decided that I need to do something about these children. I started to explore their life and I am so into it. There are so many children I came across through my studies and each has so many stories to tell.

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Search for Meaning #

Although there are effective and available PTSD-specific treatments, many are reluctant to engage in, or drop out of, treatment. As a result, there is a need for additional treatment options and in particular, options that do not emphasize detailed verbal processing of the trauma. Spirituality has been shown to be a helpful resource for dealing with a variety of trauma related events and there is evidence that spiritual beliefs can be an important factor in how veterans/military personnel cope following trauma. However, it is common for veterans to experience spiritual/religious struggles following trauma such as a weakening of beliefs, loss of meaning, increased feelings of guilt, difficulty forgiving, and moral and ethical challenges (i.e., moral injury). There have been few clinical interventions tested to address the spiritual/existential wounds from combat trauma that have been documented in the literature. To address this gap, an intervention titled “Search for Meaning” (SFM) was created through the collaborative efforts of a VA chaplain and mental health practitioners.

We intend to collect pilot data that could provide preliminary indication about the effectiveness of the SFM program, as well as develop a facilitator manual for the SFM program.

Vincent Starnino #

Associate Professor

My interest in holistic practice approaches began years ago when I worked as a therapist in community mental health. I noticed that as the therapeutic relationship developed many clients would begin talking about their spiritual lives, often mentioning the role it played in their recovery process. This led me to focus my doctoral dissertation on the role of spirituality in the recovery process of people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses. In recent years, I have become increasingly interested in the intersection among spirituality and trauma and this is the focus of my current research.

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Attracting/hiring/retaining women in the building trades through the inclusion of mentoring curricula in union apprenticeship programs #

This proposal explores creating or enhancing an existing mentoring component in union apprenticeship programs for the purpose of attracting/hiring/retaining women in the building trades and would act a springboard for a national study of women in apprenticeships. The inclusion of a mentoring component in joint apprenticeship programs would not only help provide the needed support women find nonexistent in the male-dominated building trades where they are often the target of bullying, intimidation, and sexual harassment in uncomfortable and unsafe workplaces but contribute to “best practices” (Moir, 2011) to retain women in trades. Providing mutual support in a one-on-one mentoring relationship for women facing these workplace challenges has been shown to reduce the number of women leaving the construction industry (Mccormack, 1998) and foster career-related and psychosocial benefits such as “organizational rewards in the form of promotions, increased financial security, and increased job satisfaction and commitment” (Hegstad, 1999, p. 387).

Marquita Walker #

Interim Chair and Associate Professor of Labor Studies

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Creating a Policy Map to Explore the Impact of Policy on LGBTQ health #

Law and policy are increasingly understood to be a social determinant of health. Newer methodologies in public health law research have created mechanisms for coding laws and policies in a way which better facilitates the study of the laws’ impact on health outcomes. This project will use legal epidemiology to code both protective (laws or policies which include sexual orientation and/or gender identity as a protected class) and restrictive (laws which do not include sexual orientation and/or gender identity or specifically exclude these communities, such as proposed bathroom bills) in the 50 states. This dataset will be the first to examine LGBTQ policy in this manner. Future steps will be to connect policies to health outcomes data and examine for impact of policies on health inequities.

Heather Walter-McCabe #

Adjunct Professor

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