Wayne State University

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WSU School of Social Work funds research groups to advance work on aging, substance abuse and mental health

May 21, 2014

WSU School of Social Work funds research groups to advance work on aging,
​substance abuse and mental health

The Wayne State School of Social Work has implemented a Social Work Research Enhancement Program (SWREP) dedicated to research that promotes the school's focus on development of core areas of practice including aging, interpersonal violence, child welfare, or health/behavioral health. This incentive program supports the development of teams of researchers, known as affinity groups, with shared interests who can integrate their expertise into a coherent group committed to applying and securing external funding to explore and test ideas related to social work within the four core areas.

This year, two research-enhancing affinity groups were selected to promote greater understanding of issues related to aging and to substance abuse and mental health. The funding, drawn from the school's 2014-2015 Social Work Research Enhancement Program, will advance the rich body of work being conducted in these areas by an array of social work faculty.

The Gerontology Affinity Group will strengthen and enhance the school’s capacity for conducting and disseminating research. The focus of the group will be on aging and urban health, with the goal of addressing the diverse needs of older adults in urban areas. Led by Associate Professor Faith Hopp, coordinator of the schools graduate Gerontology Certificate Program, the group has three goals. The first is to develop a core infrastructure of faculty and practitioners with a shared focus on urban aging and health. The second is to identify and apply for external funding opportunities to conduct high-impact research and attract and retain new aging researchers. The third is to enhance the ability of social work students, clinicians, and social service agency personnel to engage with urban aging practice and policy. In view of the challenges faced by urban elders and the need for relevant strategies and interventions this group will broaden their expertise, engage in community outreach, conduct focus groups, mentor students, disseminate findings, and launch a blog to provide information that informs the practice community. The group's other members include Cheryl Waites, dean and professor; Fayetta Martin, assistant professor, clinical; Anwar Najor-Durack, director of the Office of Field Education; and Assistant Professor Tam Perry.

The Substance Use, Violence and Mental Health Research Collaborative willincrease research productivity and collaboration among faculty members conducting research in these areas and build stronger partnerships with service providers in the Detroit metro community. Led by Assistant Professors Suzanne Brown and Stella Resko, the group primary objectives are to develop collaborative journal manuscripts and research grant applications, conduct two collaborative pilot studies, and increase the research productivity and efficiency of group members. Given the importance of associations between substance use, violence and mental health problems, the group will also disseminate pilot study findings through a brown bag lecture for service providers, practice brief, and inform curriculum development.

Other members of the group include Professor Arlene Weisz;Associate Professors Antonio Gonzalez-Prendes, Kim Jaffee, and Poco Kernsmith; Assistant Professors Jun Sung Hong and Debra Patterson; Jo Smith Darden, assistant professor for research; and Carolyn Dayton, assistant social work professor and associate director of the Infant Mental Health Program at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development.

The School of Social Work is fortunate to have a devoted body of faculty conducting research and developing interventions in these two areas of profound significance to urban centers like Metropolitan Detroit,” said Waites. “By facilitating collaboration between these researchers, the new affinity groups will speed the delivery of evidence-based practice enhancements to the field for the benefit of countless clients.”

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