Skip to main content

Six projects launched with Armfield-Reeves Innovation Fund research grants

The Armfield-Reeves Innovation Fund was established in 2008 by Billy and Janie Armfield and Sam and Betsy Reeves to encourage faculty and student researchers at the UNC School of Social Work to become involved in innovative, community-based, engaged research.

Small grants are awarded annually in a competitive process for pilot-scale, novel projects that emanate from a student’s or faculty member’s ideas or theories concerning effective and efficient social intervention.

The donors hope that projects will potentially lead to a successful practice innovation and will, in turn, allow the researcher to seek additional funding from appropriate public and private sources.

Grants were awarded in 2013 and 2014 for the following projects:

The Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative — Clinical Instructor Josh Hinson

The UNC Global Transmigration – Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative is a pilot project to conduct mental health screenings with at least 70 newly arrived refugees in Orange County. Funding was used primarily to train project staff to administer the screening tool and use the data to make appropriate referrals. Data collected from screenings will be used to advocate for and facilitate the development of a network of mental health services for refugees throughout North Carolina.

The project is needed because refugees experience high rates of stress-related disorders, including chronic physical illnesses, mental illnesses, and substance abuse. Routine mental health screening and assessment is not required, and therefore is seldom conducted, in the refugee reception and placement process in the United States. In addition, culturally appropriate mental health and behavioral treatment services are not readily available to refugees in North Carolina. Research data from the project indicate the extent and severity of refugees’ mental health needs, and provide preliminary evidence that conducting mental health screening and providing support are associated with greater access to care and better scores on screening instruments. Screening and outcome data from this project will be used to provide a model for other refugee mental health programs in North Carolina and across the country. Read more about this project

Overdose Prevention North Carolina — Clinical Assistant Professor Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Ph.D.

The purpose of Overdose Prevention North Carolina (OPNC) is an innovative project in partnership with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), a statewide grassroots organization based in Durham, that seeks funding to provide training to community members on overdose prevention and advocacy for increased education and awareness of naloxone (the standard treatment for opioid overdose) in order to reduce the unintentional fatalities associated with opioid overdose. The aims of OPNC are: to conduct trainings for people vulnerable to drug use and law enforcement regarding opioid overdose prevention; to document the attitudes, knowledge and beliefs of naloxone and overdose prevalence within North Carolina among various stakeholders; and to increase advocacy efforts to support the introduction of “911 Good Samaritan” state legislation. These aims are a critical first step in developing an overdose prevention plan tailored to North Carolina, where there is a lack of overdose prevention education and increasing fatalities.

The project is needed because accidental drug overdose fatalities are endemic across the country. In North Carolina, overdose rates have tripled since 2000. Nationwide, overdose has surpassed auto vehicle fatalities as the leading cause of accidental death. Of these overdose deaths, almost half have been caused by prescription opiates. To curb the overdose epidemic, several states have adopted new laws or practices that have been effective in lowering death rates from an accidental overdose. For example, “911 Good Samaritan” laws provide immunity from drug possession charges for overdose victims and witnesses who summon emergency services in order to save a life. Additionally, some states have increased public access to naloxone, the antidote that blocks the effects of opiates to reverse an opioid overdose. North Carolina, however, remains without such legislation and overdose prevention is not widely discussed with people who use drugs or the public safety professionals they interact with. Read more about this project

Parents with Severe Mental Illness and Child Welfare Involvement: An Exploratory Study of Experiences, Service Needs, and Challenges – Clinical Assistant Professor Laurie Selz Campbell

This study focuses on the experiences of parents with severe mental illness who are involved with North Carolina’s child welfare system, and of the mental health and child welfare providers who serve them. The purpose of the study is to identify barriers, challenges, and an action agenda related to the provision of family-centered, effective care for this group of vulnerable families.

The National Institutes of Mental Health estimates that 5-6% of adults in the United States experience severe mental illness — disorders of such duration and severity that functioning is significantly compromised. These adults are parents in about the same proportion as adults in the general population; however, they are three times more likely as parents without mental illness to become involved with the child welfare system, and more frequently experience repeated child welfare contact and child placement. The literature has identified challenges in effectively serving these families, including (a) stigma and misinformation around dangerousness and prognosis; (b) inadequate cross-disciplinary knowledge and competencies; (c) divergent priorities and agendas guiding the provision of services; and (d) policies that permit expedited movement toward termination of parental rights.

The project is needed because to date, little information is available regarding these issues in North Carolina’s mental health and child welfare systems. While North Carolina does not systematically document severe mental illness among its child-welfare-involved families, data from 2006 through mid-2008 indicate that about 10% (or 3,700) of substantiated abuse or neglect cases reported “caregiver emotional disturbance” as a contributing factor. Particularly since the state’s mental health and child welfare systems have undergone significant changes during the past decade, the effort to better understand the experiences of parents and providers is especially timely.

Impacts of Early Scholarship Grants and Matched Education Savings Accounts on Academic Performance and Progression in Ghana: A Randomized Pilot Study — Assistant Professor David Ansong, Ph.D.

This project tests the impacts of two types of incentives for self-funding of high school education (i.e., early scholarship grants and matched savings accounts for high school education) on students’ educational outcomes, parents’ involvement in their children’s education, and parents’ ability to afford expenses of high school education.

For many of Ghana’s youth, a primary demotivating factor is that many view higher education as an unobtainable dream. The project is needed because thus far, research studies in Ghana have not addressed the current research gap on the potential of early funding mechanisms to affect middle school level academic performance, prospects for senior high school admission, and successful enrollment. This study represents the first work to establish the potential of incentives for self-funding of high school education to enhance educational outcomes among middle school students in Ghana.

Impact of Integrated HIV and Livelihood Program (IHLP) on Food Security and Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Adherence among People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Zambia: A Pilot Study — Assistant Professor Gina Chowa, Ph.D., and Doctoral Student Rainier Masa 

This project aims to test the effects of a pilot intervention designed to improve economic and health outcomes among food-insecure adults living with HIV who are receiving ART in Zambia. The project is designed to address risk factors, including food insecurity, that contribute to suboptimal levels of ART adherence. The pilot intervention combines asset transfer, microenterprise training and financial education. The pilot study will provide critical results that will inform the design and implementation of a larger study to be supported by external funding sources, including the National Institutes of Health.

The project is needed because food insecurity is emerging as a significant barrier to ART adherence in resource-limited settings such as Zambia. Nonadherence or missing doses has been strongly associated with mortality. To date, few IHLPs have been rigorously implemented and tested to examine its impact on food security and ART adherence.

This study represents the first work to establish the potential of an IHLP to improve access to food and ART adherence. IHLP promotes social and economic well-being by enhancing the capacity of poor people to accumulate economic resources. These resources, in turn, allow PLHIV and their families to increase their income, access food, and enhance self-efficacy. Study findings will provide evidence of the feasibility of this type of IHLP and increase support for integrating economic programs with HIV care and treatment. The interaction of poverty and HIV/AIDS in many parts of the world, including Zambia requires a holistic approach to effectively promote optimal treatment adherence.

Motivational Enhancement and Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Internet Addiction/Problematic Internet Use Among University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial — Professor Matthew Howard, Ph.D., and Doctoral Student Wen (Vivien) Li 

This project will refine and test a novel six-session motivational enhancement and cognitive-behavioral (ME/CBT) intervention for university students who evidence Internet Addiction/Problematic Internet Use (IA/PIU).

IA/PIU is increasingly prevalent among university students in the U.S., and has long been recognized as a serious problem for 5%-15% of university students in East Asia. University students meeting criteria for IA/PIU evidence significantly higher levels of major depression, social and somatic anxiety disorders, social isolation, peer and parental relationship dysfunction, school problems, and health problems such as sleep deprivation and obesity than their non-IA/PIU counterparts.

This study is needed because few studies of IA/PIU treatment have been conducted, and none have employed rigorous experimental designs. Thus, this new research project fills a critical gap by refining and evaluating a promising intervention for the treatment of IA/PIU in university students.

The project advance research in this field by explicitly focusing on building participants’ social supports and interpersonal communication skills to ensure the sustainability of treatment effects. The project is also unique in that it includes comprehensive and diverse measures of IA/PIU, related psychiatric comorbidities, and indices of psychosocial dysfunction. Findings from this research could lead directly to improved care for university students and other emerging adults suffering from IA/PIU, and could provide useful information for campus health care professionals, mental health practitioners, addiction therapists and policy makers.