Research and Training


Several faculty and staff of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work are involved in funded research and training activities. What follows is a listing of current and recently completed projects carried out by members of our school community.

Currently Funded Research and Training Activities at the UConn School of Social Work

Children and Families

Training for Adoption Competency (TAC)

TAC is funded by the CT Department of Children & Families in collaboration with the UConn School of Social Work and Southern CT State University with support and technical assistance from the UConn Health Center Adoption Assistance Program. This 78-hour standardized training program for professionals in the field of social work, mental health, and child welfare, provides participants with the clinical knowledge and skills needed to effectively serve the adoption kinship network. The UConn SSW is one of several sites across the U.S. certified by the Center for Adoption Support and Education to provide this training. (Reesa Olins, PI)

Differential Response System: Performance Improvement Center

The Performance Improvement Center (PIC) supports delivery of high quality Community Support Services/Family Assessment Response as part of DCF’s new Differential Response System (DRS) initiative. Funded by the CT Department of Children and Family Services (DCF), the PIC directs and performs evaluation and quality improvement activities, including consultation, satisfaction surveys, fidelity ratings and other activities, with DCF and six Community Partner Agencies. Advice and consultation on training and workforce development needs is provided in collaboration with DCF. (Drs. Salome Raheim & Brenda Kurz, Co-PIs)

Community Organizing

Militarism and Counter-Recruitment Organizing in the United States

Counter-recruitment (CR), an effort to neutralize recruitment into the armed forces, has emerged as a key organizing tactic among one segment of the U.S. peace movement. While CR organizing exists across the United States, it is largely a grassroots activity to resist war and a broader culture of militarism. Operating with limited resources, CR activists have nonetheless scored important legal victories, forced changes to local school policies, and broadened their base of support to include parents, teachers, unions, and other key community actors. This study will examine the practice of military counter-recruitment in the United States, with an emphasis on the use of this activity in U.S. public schools. The study is based on informant interviews with representatives of community-based organizations, labor unions, and local schools who have either participated in counter-recruitment or have direct knowledge of such organizing efforts. (Dr. Scott Harding, PI)

Community Treatment/Re-entry

Community Reentry of Persons with Severe Mental Illness Released from State Prisons

As a partner to the University of North Carolina, this study funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Mental Health (NIH/NIMH) will measure the impact of programs in CT and WA to facilitate connection to Medicaid benefits for people with severe mental illness being released from prison. (Dr. Linda Frisman, PI)

Nursing Home Transition Study

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) is implementing a Medicaid Waiver to fund return to the community of nursing home residents and diversion from nursing home placements for persons with serious mental illness. The purpose of the current study is to evaluate the outcomes for persons transitioned from nursing homes to community living, and to provide process information to inform the implementation process. (Dr. Wendy Ulaszek, PI)

Criminal Justice

CT Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS) Center

CT Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS) Center – The CT CJ-DATS Center is a multi-system partnership of CT agencies participating in a national cooperative agreement funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIH/NIDA). The purpose of the Center is to develop and launch studies in criminal justice agencies to better understand how evidence-based practices can be implemented in real-world settings. Three studies are underway. The first considers the impact of a change team to ensure that prison-based assessment findings are used in re-entry planning and community treatment. The second project evaluates the use of a Pharmacotherapy Exchange Council to reduce barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment for parolees. The third study examines a process improvement method called NIATx to increase HIV testing in jails. (Dr. Linda Frisman, PI)

Evaluation of ASIST

The Advanced Supervision and Intervention Support Team (ASIST) program is a specialized criminal justice diversion program developed by the Forensic Services Division of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). The program adds mental health clinician services to community supervision for persons with mental illness charged with crimes. UConn research staff will compare outcomes of ASIST participants available from administrative data to outcomes of a propensity-matched comparison sample (Dr. Hsiu-Ju Lin, PI).

Firearms Laws, Mental Disorder, & Violence

Federal policies prohibit gun ownership by persons with mental illness, but the effectiveness of this law to reduce gun violence is unclear. This study, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Duke University examines data on firearms restrictions and violent crimes in CT, NY and MA (Dr. Hsiu-Ju Lin, UConn PI).

New Haven Reentry Initiative

Under the Second Chance Act, the CT Department of Correction has received an award to provide extensive pre- and post-release services to prisoners who are returning to the City of New Haven. These include release planning workshops, pre-release engagement, post-release educational and employment services, housing services, family reintegration, and behavioral health care. The evaluation will include client outcomes such as housing, employment, criminal justice involvement, and substance abuse (Dr. Frank Baker, PI)

Impact of Brief Incarcerations and Jail Diversion for people with SMI

CT is one of only two states that have a statewide mental health diversion program. However, some judges and diversion staff believe that there may be an advantage to brief incarcerations prior to release to diversion programs. This study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Duke University, will examine administrative data on diversion events to determine whether individuals who spent time in jail prior to being diverted were more successful in avoiding subsequent arrests and incarcerations (Dr. Hsiu-Ju Lin, UConn PI).

Health/Health Disparities

Combating Cambodian Health Disparities: A Community Driven Approach

Community based participatory research (CBPR) is increasingly gaining momentum as a tool for ending disparities in health. While CBPR is a growing field, little is known about the practical applications and evaluation of efforts in bi-lingual or linguistically isolated and geographically scattered communities. This study pilots a CBPR approach involving bi-lingual community health workers in Cambodian communities across the country linked together by videoconferencing and collecting data via mobile electronic devices (iPads). The research team will engage traumatized limited English speaking Cambodian refugee community members with documented health disparities in a process to identify their research needs, develop a short survey, conduct the survey using mobile handheld devices and analyze the data via a bridged videoconferenced Town Hall Meeting. The project will engage community members in 5 to 10 Cambodian refugee communities across the United States in identifying their top concerns related to health in their communities and their recommendations for the focus of a larger study to address these concerns. (Dr. Megan Berthold, PI)

Housing/Homelessness

Evaluation of Supportive Housing

There are two studies of permanent supportive housing programs for forensic populations currently being sponsored by the State of Connecticut. Both programs, FUSE (Frequent Users’ Service Enhancement) and FSH (Forensic Supportive Housing), provide housing and supportive services to people with criminal justice involvement who are homeless and who have significant behavioral health problems. The evaluations track housing outcomes, mental health, substance use, and criminal justice involvement (Eleni Rodis, PI).

Services in Supportive Housing Program Evaluation Study

Community Mental Health Affiliates (CMHA) received Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funding to provide services to homeless persons living in supportive housing who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or both, and whose symptoms jeopardize their housing stability. The purpose of the current study is to evaluate the program development and measure program outcomes of the Services in Supportive Housing Project. (Dr. Frank Baker, PI)

Immigrant Civic Engagement

Building Relationships and Bridging Social Capital (BRBSC)

The Hartford Public Library (HPL) received funding from the National Leadership Grants Program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to design and implement a demonstration project based on the concept of building networks of trusting relationships. The project will offer two interconnected and complementary models to promote immigrant civic integration focusing on newly arrived and established members of Hartford’s immigrant community. The SSW evaluation team, in consultation with HPL administration and other project partners, will identify appropriate procedures and instrumentation by which to evaluate BRBSC Project development and measure program outcomes.(Dr. Rebecca Thomas, PI)

Mental Health and Addictions

Client Suicide: Prevalence and Social Worker Bereavement

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, 90% of people who complete suicide have a diagnosable mental illness, and social workers provide the majority of mental health services. Client suicide is an under investigated occupational hazard. The present study has two primary aims: 1) to determine the prevalence of completed client suicide in a Connecticut sample of BSW and MSW social workers; and 2) to investigate social workers’ experiences of grief and bereavement in relation to this loss. Members of NASW-CT will be invited to complete an anonymous online survey about their professional practice and any experiences with clients with fatal and nonfatal suicide attempts. This study will provide a deeper understanding of the patterns, nature and complexity of worker bereavement. It will lead to recommendations of ways to mitigate the deleterious effects of client suicide on social workers through education and post suicide supports. (Dr. Nina Heller, PI)

CT Mental Health Transformation Evaluation

The CT Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services has received a 5-year award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to transform supportive housing services in New Haven, including the creation of a trauma-informed system of care; greater access to supportive employment; and the use of a primary care professional to screen for medical problems and peers to enhance wellness practices andconnect clients to primary care. Researchers from the School of Social Work will monitor fidelity to the model; conduct a process evaluation; and measure client outcomes. (Dr. Amy James, PI)

DIG Program Evaluation and Analysis

The purpose of this grant is to assist the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) Evaluation, Quality Management, and Information (EQMI) unit in meeting federal reporting requirements under the state Data Infrastructure Grant (DIG). Services provided include data evaluation, analysis and report writing services within the DMHAS EQMI unit. (Dr. Salome Raheim, PI)

Evaluation of the Community Support Program and Recovery Pathways

State-operated and state-funded mental health agencies in CT have replaced traditional case management programs with Community Support Programs (CSP) and Recovery Pathways (RP). CSP is a rehabilitation model, focusing on skill development to help people move toward greater independence. For clients who need fewer supports, the RP program helps them to enhance quality of life through better community integration. The evaluation of this initiative focuses on mental health recovery of clients and measurement of the secondary impact on staff. (Dr. Linda Frisman, PI)

Predictors of Hazardous Drinking, Drug Use, Depression and Suicidality among Sexual Minority Women

This study will involve a secondary analysis of pooled data from the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women study (CHLEW), the National Study of Health and Life Experiences of Women (NSHLEW), and the Women’s Health Identity and Lifetime Development (WHILD) study. Data will be used to assess similarities and differences in risk and protective factors associated with hazardous drinking, drug use, depression, and suicidality among women across five sexual identity groups. The study is funded by the Lesbian Health Fund. (Dr. Cheryl Parks, PI)

Teen Pregnancy Prevention

FatherWorks Program Evaluation

The Village for Children and Families received funding from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)/Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) and Administration on Children, Youth and Families(ACYF) to develop an innovative approach to teenage pregnancy prevention, FatherWorks. FatherWorks is a comprehensive intervention designed to reduce repeat fatherhood by providing motivation, opportunities and skills needed to change risk behavior. Services include parenting education and individualized case management, behavioral health services, and educational and vocational support.The School of Social Work (SSW) in conjunction with the Ethel Donaghue Center for Translating Research into Practice and Policy (TRIPP) will provide overall management of the collection, analysis and reporting of performance and outcome data relevant to the FatherWorks program. (Dr. Cristina Wilson, Co-PI with Dr. Judith Fifield, TRIPP)

Veterans

Veteran Diversion Evaluation

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) has undertaken a pilot program of services for veterans of the U.S. military who have trauma disorders and who come into contact with the criminal justice system in CT. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this study is intended as a process and outcome evaluation of the Veteran’s Diversion Program. (Dr. Amy James, PI)

Violence and Victimization

The Connecticut Torture Survivor Collaborative: Holistic Services for Survivors of Torture

With funding from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the International Institute of Connecticut, Inc. initiated “The Connecticut Torture Survivor Collaborative: Holistic Services for Survivors of Torture.” The University of Connecticut School of Social Work (SSW) will provide evaluation consultation to IICT over the three year duration of the grant. Consultation will encompass examination of the service delivery model with review and feedback related to program evaluation protocols embedded within the model, review and feedback regarding evaluation tools proposed and in place within the program, and review of outcome data generated out of the evaluation protocols being utilized. (Dr. Megan Berthold, PI).

Research and Training Activities Recently Completed

Children and Families

Implementation of Student and Family Assistance Center (SFAC)

Funded by the Hartford Public Schools, the purpose of this grant was to implement and monitor Student and Family Assistance Centers in Clark Elementary School and M.D. Fox Middle School. (Catherine Havens, PI)

Nurturing Parenting Groups

Funded by the Children’s Trust Fund (CTF), this was an exploratory pilot study of the curriculum based Nurturing Parenting Groups of the CTF Nurturing Families Network (NFN). The study included a field unit of UConn School of Social Work MSW students who co-facilitated some of the groups. The Nurturing Parenting Groups are curriculum-based educational support groups for parents of young children. (Dr. Brenda Kurz, PI)

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Services Study

The Domestic Violence Services Study was focused on people who have experienced domestic violence and sought services (other than shelter) from specialized programs. The study was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and administered through the National Institute of Justice. All domestic violence programs in 4 states were involved in data collection for a period of 6 months, focusing on support groups, counseling and advocacy services. In addition, programs were identified by three culturally-specific domestic violence Institutes and by national experts on domestic violence against people identifying as LGBTQ, older people and people with disabilities. Over 4000 “survivors” of domestic violence participated. (Dr. Eleanor Lyon, PI)

Gerontology/End-of-Life Care

Curriculum Development Institutes (CDI) Program

This Curriculum Development Institutes (CDIs) grant was used to prepare social work students with the knowledge, values, and skills to meet the workforce needs of our rapidly aging society. Objectives of the funded program were to promote and sustain curricular and organizational change in social work programs. During the three-year initiative, the change processes for infusing and transforming foundation courses with gerontological competencies were emphasized. (Dr. Karen Bullock, PI).

Treatment Goals at End of Life

The Treatment Goals at End of Life study was funded by a Diversity Supplement Grant from the National Institutes of Health. This research supplements an RO1 grant awarded to Dr. Terri Fried at Yale University. In order to examine race as a primary variable in explaining end-of-life care decisions across groups, African American older adults were targeted for participation in this research to increase diversity in the existing data on the parent grant. (Dr. Karen Bullock, PI).

Housing/Homelessness

Resident Services Coordinator Project

The Resident Services Coordinator Project was funded by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) to examine factors that influence perceptions, utilization and effectiveness of housing-based resident services coordination in Senior Housing communities in CT. This qualitative study employed focus group and individual interviews with residents/consumers, their family members, resident service coordinators, and property managers. Findings informed development, implementation and evaluation of resident services coordination in Senior Housing communities throughout Connecticut. (Dr. Karen Bullock, PI)

Mental Health and Addictions

ACT for Recovery

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) has implemented a new version of Assertive Community Treatment, an evidence-based practice developed to maintain persons with severe mental illness in the community. The new program, ACT for Recovery, infuses a strengths-based approach and a recovery orientation. The evaluation includes comprehensive fidelity assessment and feedback, process measures on changes, and an outcome study on ACT for Recovery program participants. (Dr. Linda Frisman, PI)

Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Project

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) obtained funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to reduce the use of seclusion and restraints in CT state hospitals. The project involved improved use of strategies to avoid the use of seclusion and restraint, and the changes in the hospital environment to prevent incidents of violence. UConn research staff assisted with implementation activities and conducted an evaluation. (Dr. Linda Frisman, PI)