Funded Research Projects

By Recipient

Geri Adler | Patrick Bordnick | Monit Cheung | Ira Colby | Kelli Connell-Carrick | Danielle Parrish 
 Cache Steinberg | Avelardo Valdez

Geri Adler, Ph.D.

Project Title: Fitness to Drive in Early Stage Dementia: Assessment of the Feasibility of Using in-car Technology to Monitor Driving Performance Associated with Dementia in Older Drivers
Aim: The primary objective of this project is to evaluate the feasibility of using in-vehicle technology to monitor a set of potentially hazardous driving behaviors common in persons with early stage dementia. The project builds on and benefits from complementary work conducted by the University of Michigan, University of Massachusetts, and the University of Houston and sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association intended, in part, to compare the validity of multiple forms of assessment of driving skills with naturalistic driving in persons with early stage dementia.
Sponsor: National Highway Traffic Association (US Department of Transportation)
Time Frame: Through May 2009

Project Title: Fitness to Drive in Early Stage Dementia: An Instrumented Vehicle Study
Aim: This project will explore the perspectives of three of the stakeholders (persons with dementia, family member, and specialist in driving assessment) and compare their recommendations with empirical data on on-road performance gained through in-vehicle monitoring. An interdisciplinary approach is proposed to examine the complexity of the criteria considered in this highly-charged, emotional, and life-changing decision. This is a collaborative project with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and the University of Massachusetts Boston .
Sponsor: Alzheimer's Association
Time Frame: September 2006 - August 2009
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Patrick Bordnick, Ph.D

Project Title: Virtual Reality Skills Training: Nicotine Dependence
Aim: The goal of this project is to develop a virtual reality skills training (VRST) treatment for nicotine dependence based on traditional cognitive behavioral coping skills programs. VRST combines computer graphics with sensory input devices including: tracking devices, visual head mounted displays (HMD), and directional audio designed to immerse a participant in a computer-generated virtual environment. The feasibility and efficacy of VRST will be tested in a clinical study with 80 nicotine dependent cigarette smokers. Smokers will be randomized to either VRST + nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or NRT only (NRTO). A ten week treatment trial will compare VRST+NRT versus NRTO on cigarette consumption, co-levels, and cessation rates across treatment and follow up (1, 2, 3, & 6 months) time periods. In addition, all participants will be assessed for cue reactivity (craving and physiological) at baseline, week 4 and week 10. The long-term goal is to develop and test the VRST, and develop affordable VR systems that will be available to substance abuse programs, individual therapists, hospitals, and drug addiction researchers for nicotine and other drugs of abuse.
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Time Frame: 2002 – 2008

Project Title: Feasibility of Immersive Virtual Reality Cue Reactivity for Nicotine Craving
Aim: We proposed to explore the impact of environmental context and cue type in nicotine craving and dependence using an immersive virtual reality cue reactivity system (IVRCR). Traditional cue reactivity approaches have been criticized for lacking realism and not providing exposure in realistic environmental contexts. The proposed IVRCR system provides exposure to complex social cues and realistic interpersonal situations within congruent environmental contexts (e.g. party setting vs. lab room). The impact of environmental context on craving and immersion will be tested in a controlled cue reactivity experiment of 105 adult nicotine dependent smokers. Assignment will be randomized to three context groups who will be exposed to both neutral and smoking cues in either a IVRCR or traditional cue reactivity paradigm. Physiological arousal, subjective craving, immersion, attention to cues, and mood state will be compared between groups and three hypotheses concerning the main effects of smoking context and cue type will be tested. Results will contribute to the conditioning theory of craving and the effect of context in drug dependence and relapse. The study results will provide additional information relevant to generalizability of cues and other significant issues in cue reactivity
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Time Frame: September 2008 - August 2011

Project Title: Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention: Alcohol Dependence
Aim: In our phase 1 grant, we demonstrated the feasibility of a virtual reality cue reactivity system (VRCR) for alcohol assessment by producing VR environments (VRE’s) that increased subjective craving for alcohol on average 450%, in a sample of 40 abusing and/or dependent adult participants. This phase II study incorporates VR cue exposure/reactivity into a relapse prevention based treatment. Virtual reality relapse prevention (VRRP) environments will combine computer generated video images depicting drinking cues (e.g. alcoholic beverages, liquor bottles, beer) and drinking related social interactions (e.g. being offered a drink in a social setting, walking around a convenience/gas station that sells beer, interacting with a waiter at a bar/restaurant) presented in contexts that are congruent with real world experiences. A recent development will allow the incorporation of scent cues (e.g. beer, wine, liquor, food, cigarette smoke) into the VR environments. The feasibility of VRRP will be tested in an outpatient clinical treatment trial with alcohol dependent drinkers. Sixty alcohol dependent adults will be recruited and randomized to either VRRP or traditional relapse prevention (TRP). A twelve week treatment trial will compare VRRP vs. TRP on alcohol use, breath alcohol levels, and abstinence rates across treatment and follow-up periods (1, 3, & 6 months). In addition, all participants will be assessed for cue reactivity (craving and physiological) at baseline, week 6, and week 12 using a VR cue reactivity assessment environment. The overarching aim of this project is to develop and test VRRP, and develop affordable turnkey, VRRP system that will be commercially available to substance abuse programs, individual therapists, and alcohol researchers for alcohol and other drugs of abuse.
Sponsor: NIAAA
Time Frame: September, 2008 – August, 2011
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Monit Cheung, Ph.D.,LCSW

Project Title: Federal-State Partnership Grant: Title IV-E Child Welfare Education Project
Aim: Since 9/1/1998, the Child Welfare Education Project (CWEP) has been a successful joint program between the Graduate College of Social Work and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). CWEP provides stipend and educational opportunities to prepare master's level social work (MSW) students for the challenging and rewarding work found in Children's Protective Services (CPS) aimed to improve the lives of children and families.
Sponsor: Title IV-E of the Amendments to the Social Security Act, through a contract with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)
Time Frame: August 2008 - July 2009
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Ira Colby, DSW

Project Title: Protective Services Training Institute of Texas (PSTI)
Aim: PSTI is a partnership of the schools of social work at The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Houston to provide professional development and certification to staff of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The Institute hosts three practitioner-trainers (experienced supervisors or program directors on loan from DFPS), who work with Institute staff and faculty trainers to ensure that Institute training is relevant and useful to DFPS staff. This blending of academic and agency expertise results in effective training, an enriched knowledge and practice base, and enhanced school-agency relationships.
Sponsor: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services through University of Texas at Austin
Time frame: September 2008 - August 2009
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Kelli Connell-Carrick, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator

Project Title: Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services Evaluation of Basic Skills Development Training: An Evaluation of Training and Retention
Aim: Child Protective Services Training and Retention Evaluation: The purpose of this longitudinal evaluation study is to examine training effectiveness for Child Protective Services workers over time. The study is a comprehensive, longitudinal evaluation of Basic Skills Development training, and surveys workers at the completion of job training, 18-months post hire and 3-years post hire. The evaluation seeks to determine the skills, abilities and experiences of CPS workers over time. We also seek to explore the characteristics, skills, abilities, and experiences of workers who remain employed in CPS. The evaluation began in November 2001 and is ongoing.

Adult Protective Services Training and Retention Evaluation: The purpose of this longitudinal evaluation study is to examine training effectiveness for Adult Protective Services workers (APS) who undergo a training program prior to their job. The evaluation surveys APS workers at the completion of APS BSD, 18-months post-hire, and 3-years post hire.
The evaluation seeks to determine the skills, abilities and experiences of APS workers over time. We also seek to explore the characteristics, skills, abilities, and experiences of workers who remain employed in APS. The evaluation began in 2005 and is ongoing.
Sponsor: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services though the PRotective Services Training Institite of Texas
Time Frame: Two years

Project Title: Adult Protective Services Basic Skills Development Exam Validation.
Aim: The purpose of this project is to validate an exam for APS workers' who complete the APS Advanced Skills Development training. An exam will be validated to assess the delivery of the key knowledge areas of the ASD curricula.
Sponsor: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services though the Protective Services Training Institite of Texas
Time Frame: 2007 - 2008
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Danielle E. Parrish, Ph.D.

Project Title:CHOICES+: Preconception Approach to Reducing Alchohol & Tobacco- Exposed Pregnancy
Aim: Project CHOICES+, a randomized controlled study implemented in the Harris County Hospital District, will determine th efficacy of the Project CHOICES+ intervention plus a referral to an evidence-based smoking cessation program in reducing the risk of alcohol and tobacco exposed pregnancies.
Sponsor: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1U84DD000438)
Time Frame: October 2009 – September 2012
Project Title:CHOICES- TEEN: A Bundled Risk Reduction Intervention for Juvenile Justice Females
Aim: This study will: Aim 1: Modify the efficacious CHOICES preconception intervention to target the prevention of HIV, AEP, and NEP. The result will be a two session individual intervention (CHOICES-TEEN) and accompanying therapy manual based on the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) and Motivational Interviewing. Aim 2: Conduct a one-arm feasibility trial with females in the juvenile justice system to assess the promise of CHOICES-TEEN. This pilot study will: 1) demonstrate the feasibility of delivering CHOICES-TEEN with master’s level mental health professionals within a juvenile justice setting; 2) determine acceptance of CHOICES-TEEN as measured by client adherence, retention, and treatment satisfaction; and 3) assess client improvement at 3-month follow-up (e.g., reduction of risk of HIV, NEP, and AEP). This study will inform subsequent Stage II/III behavioral intervention studies and contribute to a missing, fundamental element in the knowledge base – further understanding of the feasibility of targeting bundled health risks in high-risk adolescents, and the potential promise of a gender-specific intervention for this population.
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) [1R03DA034099]
Time Frame: July 2012-June 2013

Cache Steinberg, Ph.D.

Project Title: Interagency Coordinating Council for Building Health Families (ICC) Evaluation Project
Aim: This is an evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of Texas’ state funded child abuse/neglect prevention and early intervention services. The goal of the evaluation is to provide the ICC with a description of the present state of the prevention programs and services, and to offer specific options and methods for maximizing prevention services in Texas. The project will assess funding strategies, methods of assessing cost, and program outcomes, as well as the use of evidence-based practice and continuous program improvement systems.
Sponsor: Interagency Coordinating Council for Building Health Families
Time Frame: March 2008 – August 2009

Project Title: Program Evaluation: Trafficked Persons Assistance Program (TPAP)
Aim: This is a comprehensive evaluation of the YMCA’s U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime funded services for victims of human trafficking. The evaluation assesses the effectiveness of TPAP’s direct services to victims in maximizing self-sufficiency. In addition, the evaluation measures TPAP’s success in building community awareness and increased identification of victims.
Sponsor: YMCA of Greater Houston, International Services
Time Frame: November 2007 – April 2009

Project Title: Program Evaluation: Project Corazon de la Familia
Aim: This study is a comprehensive program evaluation of the Spaulding for Children's (SFC) Project Corazón de la Familia. This ACYF project seeks to enhance outcomes for adopted special needs children by providing culturally appropriate marriage education for adoptive parents prior and subsequent to adoption and post-adoption services of support groups, professional counseling, respite, and activities aimed at family bonding, as well as marriage strengthening. The project will target parents, the majority of whom are Hispanic, of special needs adoptive children who reside in the 23 south Texas counties. This project assesses the overall effectiveness of marriage education and identifies the most effective way to administer marriage education strengthening services for parents adopting special needs children.
Sponsor: Spaulding for Children
Time Frame: October 2006 – September 2011
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Avelardo Valdez, Ph.D.

Project Title: Substance Use and Other Health Consequences among Katrina Evacuees in Houston
Aim: This study will examine how disaster related experiences associated with Hurricane Katrina impact changes in substance use and abuse patterns, drug treatment utilization, HIV risk behaviors and networks, and current health status among low income, predominantly African American evacuees living in Houston .
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) [1 R01 DA021852-01]
Time Frame: 2006 - 2008

Project Title: National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse
Aim: The training institute builds on the successful National Hispanic Science Network (NHSN) on Drug Abuse training institute conducted during the prior four years (2002 - 2004) by Dr. Avelardo Valdez. The training institute will provide fifteen Hispanic graduate and post-doctoral fellows interested in pursuing a career in drug abuse research with a unique opportunity for a multidisciplinary training with drug abuse researchers as teachers and mentors. An important aspect of the institute is to foster mentoring relationships between the fellows and leading Hispanic drug abuse researchers.
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) [N01DA-1-1200].
Time Frame: 2005-2009

Project Name: University of Houston Drug Abuse Research Development Program
Aim: The University of Houston Drug Abuse Research Development Program (UHDARDP) will increase the capacity of minority faculty and graduate students from the University of Houston (UH) to conduct research on drug abuse. This will be accomplished through the development of an infrastructure and research projects that focus on long-term health and social consequences of injecting heroin use among aging Mexican American males. The focus of this research will be on the etiology and epidemiology of injecting heroin use and its implication for drug abuse prevention, intervention, and service research. Specific aims include: 1) establish an institutional research development plan; 2) build the research capacity in drug abuse around the Graduate School of Social Work’s strength in gerontology; 3) provide a structure for the conceptual, methodological and statistical support to develop project directors and graduate students; 4) execute a multidisciplinary research program consisting of a primary research project and two pilot projects; 5) encourage and recruit other project directors and graduate students from the UH; 6) bridge the gap between the social and pharmacy sciences in the fields of basic and applied research, and service delivery systems; 7) recruit a team of internal and external mentors and consultants from interdisciplinary academic backgrounds to enhance the UHDARDP professional development activities.
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA)
Time Frame:

2007-2012


Project Title: High Risk Drug and Related Risk Behaviors Among Hispanic Immigrant Workers in New Orleans
Aim: Hurricane Katrina is considered one of most devastating storms ever to occur in the United States. A major consequence of this disaster was a dynamic demographic shift in the ethnic and racial composition of New Orleans. There has been a dramatic increase of the Latino population from 3% pre- Katrina to over 20 percent. These Latinos are mainly comprised of single, poor, undocumented immigrant men working in the demolition and construction trades. Despite the increased public attention this group’s migration has received, little is known about the health and social consequences of their day-to-day activities in this volatile social environment. In particular, there is absence of knowledge regarding the establishment and emergence of new patterns of drug use and associated risk behaviors in this population. The study proposes to conduct in-depth face-to-face semi-structured interviews with 75 male and female immigrants living in New Orleans. The specific aims of this proposed supplemental study of Post-Katrina Latino immigrants living in New Orleans are the following: 1) Document the nature and extent of drug use among the total sample and specific subgroups (e.g. country of origin, gender, age); 2) Explore the relationship of social environmental factors (e.g. social networks, drug market) and drug use behaviors; and 3) Examine the relationship among drug use and sexual risk behaviors associated with HIV and other infectious diseases.
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Time Frame:

September, 2008 – August, 2009


Project Title: At-Risk Hispanic Gangs: Long Term Consequences for HIV, Hepatitis and STI
Aim: This study examines among former Mexican American gang members the associations between adolescent, early young adulthood and young adult-specific risk factors and the outcomes of infection with HIV, hepatitis B and C, sexually transmitted infections, and related infection risks. The study follows up a cohort of adolescent Mexican American male gang (n=160) members in San Antonio previously identified in a NIDA funded study (R01 DA08604). This sample serves as t1 of the proposed longitudinal cohort study. For time two (a retrospective five year measurement point) and time three (current interview), the same respondents are re-interview and an additional cohort of 150 individuals will be interviewed. Specific analytical constructs from the age-graded theory of informal social control and Hispanic culture are used to explain the health consequences associated with the transition from adolescence to young adulthood that may be critical for HIV intervention efforts. Data collection consists of the administration of a questionnaire (t2 and t3) that includes standardized assessments, biological assessments and qualitative life history interviews that are conducted with a subset of the sample. The aims of the study are the following: 1. Determine the prevalence (tested) of HIV, HBV, HCV, and STIs, (chlamydia trachomatis, syphilis and herpes simplex virus-2) infection in young adulthood (n=310). 2. Determine the prevalence of HIV, hepatitis and STI infection risks, including high risk sexual behaviors, injecting drug use, non-injecting heroin and stimulant use and high-risk drug and sexual networks in young adulthood (n=310) 3. Determine, among gang members recruited ten years ago (n=160) whether the young adulthood outcomes of testing positive for HIV, hepatitis and STIs and infection risks are associated with the adolescent risk factors of informal social control processes and risk behaviors (T1). 4. Determine whether the young adulthood outcomes of testing positive for HIV, hepatitis and STIs and infection risks are associated with the early young adulthood factors of informal social control processes and incarceration history (T2) (n=310). 5. Determine whether the young adulthood outcomes of testing positive for HIV, hepatitis and STIs and infection risks are associated with the young adulthood informal social control processes, risk behaviors, and cultural factors (T3) (n=310). 6. Characterize qualitatively the complex processes, culture and context, associated with significant risk factors that are related to HIV, hepatitis, and STI’s infection and infection risks during the life course trajectories from adolescence to young adulthood. The research will significantly contribute to the development of selective HIV intervention preventions and policy discourse that take into consideration the distinct life course trajectories of gang affiliated populations.
Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Time Frame:

September, 2008 – June, 2012

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