Research & State of CT Partnerships

School of Social Work & Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

DMHAS Research Division Staff

Eleni Rodis MS
Eleni Rodis, MS
Acting Director, Research Division

The Research Division of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (DMHAS) is a nationally recognized research leader among state mental health and substance abuse agencies. The members of the DMHAS Research Division staff are employees of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, with grant and contract funds from the National Institute on Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as well as the State of Connecticut.

The Research Division conducts program evaluations and cost effectiveness studies and investigates many issues of policy relevance in the mental health and addictions fields, including supportive housing, mental health and addictions among criminal justice-involved populations, trauma interventions, and implementation of evidence-based practices. Research conducted in Connecticut informs decision-makers about the effectiveness of treatment and the impact of policies on persons with behavioral health disorders. At times, SSW undergraduate and graduate students have opportunities to work with the Research Division when grant funding allows.

For more information about the Research Division, visit the Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services website.

School of Social Work & Connecticut Department of Social Services

Darleen Klase, OSD Director
(860) 424-5587

The UConn School of Social Work and the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) have worked collaboratively for over twenty five years. DSS has an Office of Organizational and Skill Development (OSD) that provides training and organizational development services to DSS and its staff. The OSD staff and the services are part of a formal partnership between the school and DSS. This arrangement insures effectiveness, efficiency, and shared resources that benefit the partners, clients and The State of Connecticut.

OSD is staffed by professionals from the School of Social Work who provide a variety of training, media and organizational development activities to the agency’s nearly 2,000 employees. Operating under a contractual agreement for more than 30 years, the partnership has changed over time to meet DSS’ developing needs.

Education and training for DSS staff and its partners is focused on programs, leadership and professional growth and development. DSS staff are provided regular training opportunities in a range of program areas such as Medicaid, child care, child support, elderly services, TANF, foodstamps and case management. In addition civil rights, supervisory, managerial and systems training are part of an employee’s growth and development plan. A media production center develops educational materials for training projects, group presentations, and other needs through newsletters, videotapes, and other communications tools. Organizational development activities are initiated and managed by the OSD staff to support service effectiveness and efficient processes. Cultural responsiveness and social justice are fundamental part of training and organizational design services. Graduate students from the School of Social Work are placed as interns in DSS departments.

For more information about OSD visit The Office of Organizational and Skill Development website.

School of Social Work & Connecticut Office of Early Childhood

Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) and CCEI Announce Partnership | CCEI
Kathryn Parr, Assistant Professor
OEC-UConn Partnership Director

In a groundbreaking collaboration, the School of Social Work, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, and joined the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to create the OEC-UConn Performance Partnership in 2018. The partnership aims to prevent local children from experiencing the trauma of homelessness and to gauge those prevention efforts.

Through the partnership, OEC will contribute funding to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness's “be homeful” fund, which provides emergency assistance to help families with children remain in their homes and avoid entering homeless shelters — a method known as diversion. UConn’s School of Social Work will study the outcomes of this approach over a three-year period.The new evaluation center draws on the expertise of UConn researchers to implement data-driven policy-making in support of the OEC’s coordinated system of care.

“We’ll be tracking the well-being of children and families across the state as well as the performance of the OEC office and its programs,” says Assistant Research Professor Kathryn Parr, who directs the partnership from the UConn side. “Ultimately what we’re doing with this partnership is putting the expertise of UConn in service of the public good.”

For more information about OEC, visit the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood website.

School of Social Work & Connecticut Department of Children and Families

Dr. Patricia Carlson
Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director, Performance Improvement Center

Brenda Kurz
Dr. Brenda Kurz
Associate Professor, MSW Program Director, and Co-Principal Investigator, Performance Improvement Center

Under the leadership of Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Brenda Kurz and Dr. Patricia Carlson, the UConn School of Social Work’s Performance Improvement Center (PIC) works closely with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its community partner agencies to evaluate services offered to families of children at risk for further maltreatment.  “We provide a rigorous and systematic approach to quality improvement,” explains Dr. Kurz, Associate Professor and MSW Program Director. “The goal is to enhance access, service quality, interventions, and outcomes.”

From an initial focus on the Community Support for Families (CSF) program within the Connecticut DCF’s Family Assessment Response (FAR) track, PIC has broadened its work to encompass all of FAR and, more recently, the state’s Investigation Response (IR) track as well. In 2020, PIC has been leading an effort to help DCF evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery and availability for families who participate in the CSF program.  Findings indicate that CSF providers have continued to provide critical services to families using telehealth and when possible, doing curbside check-ins and visits outside while taking necessary health and safety precautions. There are changes in practice that have been implemented because of COVID-19 restrictions that should be continued post pandemic such as better utilizing technology, continuing to use virtual meetings when appropriate, and working with families to make sure that they have access to technology. 

Additionally, PIC was awarded a new grant to assist Beacon Health Options in 2020 to evaluate its Integrated Family Care and Support (IFCS) program.  In partnership with DCF, Beacon launched IFCS in early 2020.  IFCS engages families while connecting them to concrete, traditional and non-traditional resources in their community, utilizing components of a Wraparound Family Team Model approach. Combining nimbleness with high-level data-programming and statistical skills, “PIC’s team of data analysts is particularly adept at delivering this model for performance enhancement,” says Dr. Kurz.