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Research Roundup: October 2023

It was a busy month for the School of Social Work team. The October roundup includes 12 published papers and eight presentations, including a faculty member who testified before the Congressional Government Accountability Office.

Sandra Reeves Spears and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor of Social Work Trenette Clark Goings
Sandra Reeves Spears and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor of Social Work Trenette Clark Goings


Associate Professor Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Research Assistant Professor Brianna Lombardi and Catherine Greeno (University of Pittsburgh) co-authored “Examining the use of psychiatric collaborative care and behavioral health integration codes at federally qualified health centers: A mixed-methods study” for Families, Systems, & Health. The authors conducted a mixed-methods study on the use of the Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model and behavioral health integration codes and the application of integrated behavioral health in federally qualified health centers. Their findings indicated that more financial and logistical support is necessary to implement the Collaborative Care Model and behavioral health integrated care.

Assistant Professor Orrin Ware, Daejun Park (Ohio University), Eunwoo Lee (University of Albany) and Sejung Yang (University of Vermont) co-authored “Patterns of familial and racial trauma and their associations with substance use disorders among racial/ethnic minority adults” for Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Drawing a sample of 17,115 individuals from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, the authors studied how trauma among racial and ethnic minorities was connected to substance use disorders. Results classified individuals into four groups: “low trauma,” “high discrimination,” “high ACEs” and “high trauma.” Their findings suggested that interventions related to trauma that were ethnically and rationally sensitive could help lower or halt substance use disorders in the affected groups.  

Assistant Professor Orrin Ware authored “Lean/sizzurp ingredients, use, and coping with mental health symptoms” for Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment. Ware’s study focused on the development of a substance use disorder among individuals who took lean, a combination of codeine and promethazine that is understudied compared to other drugs. Ware used “substance-related Reddit pages” to sample 1,423 adults who had used lean within the last year to deal with mental health symptoms. Ware’s findings concluded that participants who had anxiety, lifetime trauma exposure and who were female were more likely to have used lean to deal with mental health symptoms in the last 30 days. Conversely, individuals with depression or in an unstable housing environment were less likely to have used lean as a way to cope with their mental health symptoms. 

Associate Dean for Doctoral Education Mimi Chapman, Associate Professor Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Associate Professor Cynthia Rizo, Ting Guan, Ph.D. ’22, Catherine Zimmer (Department of Sociology), Carrie Jo Braden (University of Texas Health), Laurel Northouse (University of Michigan) and Lixin Song (University of Texas Health) co-authored “Illness uncertainty and quality of life in patients with advanced cancer and their family caregivers: An actor-partner interdependence model analysis” in Psycho-Oncology. Their study focused on the association between the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer and their family caregivers and their illness uncertainty, defined in the study as “the person’s inability to determine the meaning of illness-related events.” Their analysis of 484 caregiver/patient groups identified a negative association between a patient’s quality of life and their own uncertainty, as well as a negative association between the uncertainty of the caregiver and their own quality of life. They concluded that targeted interventions for family caregivers and patients would help both groups better manage illness uncertainty and benefit their quality of life. 

Assistant Professor Orrin Ware, Justin Strickland (Johns Hopkins University), Kirsten Smith (Johns Hopkins University), Shannon Blakey (RTI International) and Kelly Dunn (Johns Hopkins University) co-authored “Factors associated with high-risk substance use in persons receiving psychiatric treatment for a primary trauma- and stressor-related disorder diagnosis” for Journal of Dual Diagnosis. Using a sample of 15,772 adults who received treatment between 2013-2019 at a psychiatric hospital in the United States, they examined factors associated with high-risk substance use as well as the role of gender in the relationship between mental health disorders and high-risk substance use. They found that, compared to women, men who had multiple mental health diagnoses or mental illness were more likely to use substances in a high-risk capacity. Their study highlighted the importance of comprehensive gender-centered treatment for individuals with mental illness who also engage in high-risk substance use. 

Assistant Professor Rebecca Rebbe, Distinguished Professor Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Julia Reddy (Gillings School of Public Health), Cynthia Kuelbs (University of San Diego) and Jeannie Huang (University of San Diego) co-authored “The impact of COVID-19 on infant maltreatment emergency department and inpatient medical encounters” for Journal of Pediatrics. The goal of the study was to determine the amount of infant maltreatment-related medical encounters that occurred in a large medical system during a 21-month period of the coronavirus pandemic. The data for the study were emergency medical encounters for infants that occurred at a child’s hospital system in California from Jan. 1, 2016 to Nov. 30, 2021. The study found that maltreatment diagnoses for children increased by 64% during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic could have affected the safety and health of infants, although they noted more work was needed to examine the effects of the pandemic on the maltreatment of children. 

Assistant Professor Rebecca Rebbe, Distinguished Professor Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Julia Reddy (Gillings School of Public Health), Cynthia Kuelbs (University of San Diego) and Jeannie Huang (University of San Diego) co-authored “Counts and child protection reports of diagnosed child maltreatment before and after the COVID-19 pandemic onset” for Child Abuse and Neglect. The study observed rates of child protective services reports of child maltreatment both before and immediately after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the study focused on data from Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego from 2016 to 2021, and used child protective services data and medical records to identify rates of child maltreatment occurrences noted by child protective services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings concluded that the percentage and monthly counts of child maltreatment medical occurrences, as reported to CPS, rose during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Clinical Associate Professor Andrea Murray-Lichtman, Research Associate Professor Tonya Van Deinse, Research Specialist MacKensie Disbennett, Ph.D. student Ally Waters, Mariah Cowell Mercier, MSW ’19, Gary S. Cuddeback (Virginia Commonwealth University), Tracy Velázquez (The Pew Charitable Trusts) and Faye Taxman (George Mason University) co-authored “Strategies for supervising people with mental illnesses on probation caseloads: Results from a nationwide study” for Health & Justice. The authors conducted a nationwide study of mental health screenings and methods performed by probation agencies, the mental health caseloads of those agencies, and the strategies used by those agencies to supervise people with mental health illnesses. The study concluded that probation agencies should use a rehabilitative orientation for supervising individuals with mental illnesses through identifying those with mental health needs and creating a program for mental health screenings and referrals for treatment. 

Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Travis J. Albritton, Clinical Assistant Professor Amy Levine and Clinical Assistant Professor April Parker co-authored “Building capacity: Preparing practicum instructors to develop students’ antiracist practices” for Field Educator. The authors looked at a model developed by the University’s social work program to build instructors’ capacity to convey antiracist and antioppressive principles and practices in practicum assignments as they focus on changing educational practices to support the social justice vision of social work. 

Associate Professor David Ansong, Postdoctoral Research Associate Jamal Appiah-Kubi, Ph.D. student Emmanuel Amoako, Jamie Conklin (Department of Clinical and Statewide Engagement), Moses Okumu (University of Illinois), Isaac Koomson (University of Queensland) and Thabani Nyoni (University of Toronto) co-authored “The effectiveness of financial capability and asset building interventions in improving youth’s educational well-being: A systematic review” for Adolescent Research Review. The authors reviewed economic empowerment interventions’ strengths and weaknesses, looked at the measurement of outcomes and evaluated the effectiveness of the interventions. Using 15 studies from four continents, they found interventions improved educational well-being, academic attendance and achievement, although interventions were less effective with boosting educational enrollment.

Associate Professor David Ansong, Associate Dean for Global Engagement Gina Chowa, Jin Huang (Saint Louis University), Sicong Sun (University of Kansas), Aytakin Huseynli (Washington University in St. Louis), Fred Ssewamala (Washington University in St. Louis), Moses Okumu (University of Illinois), Isaac Koomson (University of Queensland), Margaret Sherraden (Washington University in St. Louis) and Michael Sherraden (Washington University in St. Louis) contributed to a book chapter for Handbook on Social Protection and Social Development in the Global South. The authors highlighted the role of financial capability and asset building innovations (FCAB) for promoting social development and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, they looked at four ways that FCAB is vital for advancing social protection and achieving SDGs in the Global South.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Millicent Robinson, Adina Black (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health), Paige Castro-Reyes (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health), Al Richmond (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health), The authors used findings from a PCORI-funded community engagement award to highlight lessons learned from listening sessions with African Americans in North Carolina that were facilitated by Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. Individuals stated the importance of building positive relationships, understanding the factors that influence decisions in regard to participation in research and the importance of gaining trust.


Associate Professor Sarah E. (Betsy) Bledsoe presented “Applying Communication Analysis with Bipolar Disorder” at the International Conference of Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT): Application and Progress of IPT in Treating Bipolar Disorder in Beijing, China.

Distinguished Professor Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Assistant Professor Rebecca Rebbe, Ph.D. student Claire McNellan and Julia Reddy (Gillings School of Global Public Health) presented research at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect in Edinburgh, Scotland in September.

Distinguished Professor Emily Putnam-Hornstein spoke on a panel at the National Governor’s Center for Best Practices Annual Health and Human Services Institute in Milwaukee to discuss the role of artificial intelligence and innovative technology in the public sector.

Associate Professor Lisa de Saxe Zerden and Research Assistant Professor Brianna Lombardi presented “Diversifying the Behavioral Health Workforce: Supporting Students Earlier in the Educational Pathway” at the 2023 Health Workforce Research Symposium in Washington D.C. on Oct. 11.

Sandra Reeves Spears and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor of Social Work Trenette Clark Goings was invited to testify as a health equity panelist before the Congressional Government Accountability Office. Goings’ presentation focused on changes in the U.S. policy landscape since the COVID-19 pandemic, and she provided 10 action steps for Congress and the Congressional Government Accountability Office to achieve national health equity. Goings’ presentation was followed by a question-and-answer period involving the 300-person audience. The panel was moderated by Akbar Husain, co-lead of the Congressional Government Accountability Office’s Health Equity Crosscutting Workgroup. To access Goings’ 10 recommendations for achieving health equity, visit Of note, Kenny Harris III, LCSW, an Active-Duty Army Officer and current Ph.D. student in the UNC School of Social Work, contributed to the 10th recommendation related to military service members.

Professor Paul Lanier and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Travis Albritton presented “Responding to Disparities in Preschool Exclusionary Discipline: Translating Research Findings from a Community-Based Participatory Pilot Study” at the National Black Child Development Institute National Conference in Charlotte, N.C.

On Sept. 29, Associate Professor David Ansong and Ph.D. student Emmanuel Amoako presented their research at the first annual Data Science Day at the UNC School of Data Science and Society. Ansong presented on “Data-Driven Spatial Modeling for Improved Community Assessment, Resource Allocation, and Well-Being Outcomes.” Amoako presented a paper titled, “Applying a Person-oriented Approach to Modeling Unobserved Heterogeneity in Access to Financing During Medical Emergencies.”

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Millicent Robinson facilitated a workshop titled, “Embodying Authenticity as a Pathway to Purpose, Growth, Alignment, and Wellness” at the UNC Empow(HER) 2023 Conference in September.

Awards, News & Recognition

Associate Professor David Ansong, Research Associate Professor Kanisha Brevard and Evaluation Scientist Sarah Hammond secured a grant for an evaluation project. This project is focused on the development of a comprehensive training program for child welfare professionals. It’s designed to equip these professionals with specialized resources and training to enhance their awareness and understanding of the effects of prenatal substance exposure on children and families. They will be collaborating with Creating a Family to conduct a year-long evaluation.