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Urban health institute shares in four research awards

Hortensia Amaro, director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research (IUHR), in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), received federal grants totaling $6.8 million. The awards will fund projects to develop and evaluate novel approaches to substance abuse treatment programs for men and women, and evaluate new mental health services for children from birth to eight years old in Massachusetts.

Additionally, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, the new associate director of the institute, is leading a $2 million research project, funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, which will enable researchers to chart racial and ethnic equity in U.S. metropolitan areas.

Amaro will serve as the principal investigator on two of the projects investigating innovative models of care for men and women dealing with substance abuse. She will act as an evaluator on the third project, to assess novel approaches to treating mental health issues in young children in Massachusetts. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is funding all three projects.

“This funding is absolutely critical to provide effective services for vulnerable residents dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the BPHC’s executive director. “Dr. Amaro and Northeastern University have been at the forefront of new research and programs and we look forward to again partnering with them on these important issues.”

A five-year, $4.4 million grant will support the work of Project LAUNCH, part of an MDPH program to deliver improved behavioral and mental health care to at-risk children and their families. Developing a collaboration between two community health centers and a hospital primary care clinic, the program will determine how pediatric medical homes can best help children at risk for early childhood mental health issues.

A three-year, $1.2 million SAMHSA grant will fund the second project, the Boston Consortium of Services for Men in Recovery, which will focus on the creation of a recovery-oriented system of care to help Latino and African- American males with a history of substance abuse and mental health issues. The project will increase access to high-quality, community-based outpatient substance abuse treatment services.

The Safe and Sound Return project, supported by a three-year, $1.2 million SAMHSA grant, will help transition women back into the community after incarceration. The project will expand substance abuse treatment and health programs for this at-risk population. In addition, Northeastern’s College of Business Administration will provide entrepreneurship training for the women involved in this program.

“There is a tremendous opportunity here to develop and test effective service delivery approaches for men and women to overcome obstacles and become active, involved members of their community,” said Amaro. “By providing services to help them conquer substance abuse, as well as offering job placement and other medical services, these individuals will have a better chance of success. Through these projects, we hope to contribute to the knowledge base on addiction treatment as well as to provide much needed services to these populations.”

The goal of Acevedo-Garcia’s project, called DiversityData, is to track the quality of life in urban areas and provide policymakers in those areas the data necessary for them to make the best decisions for populations at risk, including children.

Other researchers from Northeastern involved in the projects include Marilyn Ahl, Joanna Almeida and Sheryl Mendlinger. Northeastern graduate fellows at the IUHR will also have opportunities to work on the projects and gain further research skills.

To learn about Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University, please visit

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