Delaware Focus – Past Projects

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on People with Disabilities in Delaware

  • Eileen Sparling, Principal Investigator
  • Rochelle Brittingham, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Madeline Stenger, Research Associate
  • Ilia King, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Natalie Walton, Research Assistant

This project documents the experiences of people with disabilities in Delaware during the 2020 pandemic by examining a number of data sources, listening sessions, and discussions with individuals involved in the COVID-19 response. A visual version of the report – an online story map – is available at

The report explores a myriad of risk factors that aligned during the COVID-19 pandemic to make people with disabilities among the most vulnerable segments of the population and highlights the resilience of the disability community in the face of increased social isolation, structural challenges to services, and disproportionate loss of life. The report also explores the actions taken to overcome these issues, and how these actions can be used as first steps in the path forward to decrease the disparities this community will experience in future public health emergencies.

Click here for the full report.

Evaluating the Lions Quest Virtual 12-Week Prevention Program

  • Cheryl M. Ackerman, Principal Investigator
  • M.J. Scales, Research Associate
  • Shauna Leahy, Graduate Research Assistant

At the request of Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), the Center for Drug and Health Studies is evaluating the implementation of the Lions Quest 12-week Virtual Prevention Program (LQ-12VP2), which targets community-based substance use prevention. The 12-week program was developed prior to the COVID pandemic and was intended to be implemented in-person, however, it was modified for virtual implementation due to widespread restrictions imposed for in-person activities.

LCIF is particularly interested in views about the program, training and support effectiveness, site readiness, and fidelity of implementation. The research methods to be used include lesson observations, a facilitator log, and stakeholder interviews to respond to the four evaluation questions posed.

Click here for the Lion’s Quest Homepage.

Lions Quest Literature Distillation

Virtual Lions Quest Evaluation Report 

Delaware’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) Grant

Partnerships for Success (SPF-PFS) Community Evaluation Team (CET)

  • Laura Rapp, Principal Investigator
  • Dana Holz, Evaluator
  • Darryl Chambers, Evaluator
  • David Borton, Data Analyst
  • Megan Demarest, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Bill Gratton, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Initiated: 2015; Funding Source: SAMHSA through Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health

SPF-PFS grant programs aim to reduce substance misuse and strengthen prevention capacity at the state, tribe, and jurisdiction levels. They do this by helping grantees leverage and realign statewide funding streams for prevention. PFS is based on the premise that changes at the community level will lead to measurable changes at the state level. Through collaboration, states and their PFS-funded communities of high need can overcome challenges associated with substance misuse.

SPF-PFS is a continuation of the work done under the Strategic Prevention Framework – State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG) (2009-2015) and the goals of the SPF-PFS initiative are to provide funding to the State in order to: (1) Prevent onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse, including childhood and underage drinking and prescription drug abuse; (2) Reduce substance abuse-related problems; and (3) Build prevention capacity and infrastructure at the state and community level.

The Partnerships for Success Community Evaluation Team (PFS CET) provides process and outcome evaluation services for all SPF-PFS funded community prevention Contractors as well as the PFS Management Team at DSAMH. The evaluation services include technical assistance and guidance on the five steps of the SPF Framework: Assessment, Capacity Building, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation.  Consequently, the Community Evaluation Team provides guidance, technical assistance, data collection and data analysis that are specific to where each Community/State Contractor is in regards to the SPF process. Additionally, the CET works collaboratively with PFS Management, Community Contractors, and the Federal Cross-Site Evaluation Team to ensure that all process and outcome requirements are met for this project.

PFS Annual Report 2017.pdf

PFS Annual Report 2018.pdf

Delaware’s Strategic Prevention Framework for Prescription Drugs (SPF Rx)

  • Dana Holz, Principal Investigator
  • Laura Rapp, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Megan Demarest, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Bill Gratton, Graduate Research Assistant

Delaware’s Strategic Prevention Framework for Prescription Drugs (SPF Rx) is intended to raise awareness about the risks of sharing medications, and promote collaboration between states/tribes and pharmaceutical and medical communities to understand the risks of overprescribing to Delaware residents ages 12-25 and across the lifespan. SPF Rx is built on a community based approach to prevention and a series of implementation principles that can be operationalized at the Federal, State, and community levels. Funding is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for the Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA/CSAP). The Delaware SPF Rx is administered by Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DHSS/DSAMH).  The Evaluation Team works with funded community agencies and the State to evaluate ongoing prevention efforts funded through SPF Rx.  The Evaluation Team tracks and reports on process and outcome measures using data from prevention activity track tools, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) data, emergency department data, and Delaware School Survey data.  Additionally, the Evaluation Team provides tailored technical assistance to the funded community agencies as they plan and implement their prescription drug abuse prevention efforts.

Project SAFETY

  • Sharon Merriman-Nai, Principal Investigator
  • Daniel Howard, Penn State, Harrisburg, Faculty Associate
  • James Highberger, Data Analyst
  • Initiated: 2008; Funding Source: Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families

Project SAFETY is a comprehensive, statewide suicide prevention initiative targeting youth ages 10-24. Based on a public health and community-based approach to suicide prevention by identifying the broader patterns of suicidal behavior, the initiative promotes screening for behavioral health issues, including suicide. The project team participates in the Delaware Suicide Prevention Coalition (DSPC), which was established as part of a previously funded Garrett Lee Smith grant. Following the Guiding Principles of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, DSPC is designed to be a catalyst for social change, with the power to transform attitudes, policies, and services.

Project SAFETY – Infographic

Project SAFETY – Program Summary Presentation

Delaware DASH HIV Prevention Initiative

  • Sharon Merriman-Nai, Principal Investigator
  • Roberta Gealt, Senior Consultant
  • Jim Highberger, Data Manager
  • Initiated: 2014; Funding: Delaware Department of Education

The State of Delaware Department of Education Adolescent Health Program received a five-year grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) among adolescents, and to reduce disparities of HIV and STD rates among high risk groups of students. Twelve school districts and alternative schools have partnered with the State in this effort. The initiative seeks to: deliver exemplary sexual health education emphasizing HIV and other STD prevention (ESHE); increase adolescent access to youth-friendly, key sexual health services (SHS); establish and maintain safe, supportive, and inclusive environments for students and staff (SSE); and develop, implement, and track relevant policies. The strategies to achieve these goals include promoting the concepts and practices of: healthy decision-making; peer support; effective communication; inclusiveness; parental involvement; and community engagement. As project evaluator, the Center for Drug and Health Studies uses a variety of qualitative and quantitative strategies (including key informant interviews, and School Health Profiles and Youth Risk Behavior Survey data) to measure the initiative’s impact.

​Center for Drug and Health Studies School-based Survey Administration Schedule

Delaware’s Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG)

  • Laura Rapp, Principal Investigator
  • Steven S. Martin, Lead Evaluator 
  • Sharon Merriman-Nai, SEOW Coordinator
  • Brandie Pugh, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Initiated: July 1, 2009; Funding Source: SAMHSA through Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health

The purpose of the Strategic Prevention Framework – State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG) is to institutionalize the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) throughout the state to develop and enhance Delaware’s substance abuse prevention system.  The SPF-SIG is built on a community-based approach to prevention and a series of implementation principles.  The goals of the SPF-SIG initiative are to provide funding to State in order to: (1) Prevent onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse, including childhood and underage drinking; (2) Reduce substance abuse-related problems; and (3) Building prevention capacity and infrastructure at the state and community level.

The goals of the Delaware SPF-SIG Evaluation parallel the goal of the SPF-SIG project as a whole.  The first is to develop and implement an integrated community and statewide level evaluation system for the SPF initiative that can 1) assist in the planning and monitoring of policies and programs and 2) measure changes in alcohol related consumption, patterns and consequences that can be attributed to DE SPF-SIG efforts. A second but equally important goal is to measure increases in community capacity and infrastructure which will enable the state and communities to address substance abuse problems beyond SPF-SIG. In terms of the specific Community Evaluation goals and objective, it is that the Community Evaluation Team assist and evaluates the SPF-SIG Contractors as they work through the 5 steps of the SPF-SIG, assessment, capacity, planning, implementation, and evaluation.   The Team also provides training and technical assistance to the contractors to ensure that the best data possible were tracked and collected.  All federal requirements were fulfilled.  The Evaluation Team, working with the SPF-SIG Staff, also ensure that all federal reporting requirements are fulfilled, this include the Grantee level Instrument, Community Level Instrument, Community Outcomes, and the Participant Level Instrument. 

CET-SPF-SIG Project-Final Evaluation Report.pdf

  • Including Youth with Disabilities in the Youth Tobacco Survey
    • Funding Source: ACCEL-ACE
    • Statewide surveys routinely monitor the prevalence of health risk behaviors and inform prevention interventions.  Current youth sampling protocols include public middle and high school students in regular, graded classrooms with fewer than 50% students with special educational needs.  This project seeks to develop an accommodation protocol that will allow school health surveys to be conducted among students in special education classrooms and schools.  The project is guided by an Advisory Panel representing communities of students with disabilities, parents, teachers, school administrators, health professionals and staff from federal and state partner agencies.  Key informant interviews, classroom observation and focus groups will be used to identify potential barriers and accommodations.  New disability screening questions will be added to Delaware’s YTS and field-tested along with the new protocol.  This project involves the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies, Center for Drug and Health Studies and the State of Delaware’s Division of Public Health.
  • ​​Expanding the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP)
    • Funding Source: Bureau of Justice Assistance
  • The purpose of this project is to expand UD’s Delaware Drug and Alcohol Tracking (DDATA) established process to include Delaware PMP data. It will add important geocoding information, via GIS census tract coding at the University of Delaware, to the Delaware PMP data so existing federal data efforts, and others at the state level, can be merged to improve states’ ability to identify and combat their health-related problems. Geocoding will allow the overlay of census, crime, and other health data onto the PMP, providing the means for proactive research and surveillance to better inform public policy. The resulting product will provide information of immediate interest and utility for policy changes in Delaware and will also serve as a national model for structural changes in PMP, its linkage with other data, and its use in surveillance and research.

CJC Board Presentation.pdf

Opioid.Benzo overlap deaths.pptx

  • A Collaborative Plan to Reduce Irresponsible Drinking at the University of Delaware
    • Funding Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    • Project Summary: This project sought to demonstrate and evaluate new means of changing policies, practices, and student attitudes and norms regarding binge drinking and its consequences.
  • State Illicit Drugs Surveillance System
    • Funding Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    • Project Summary: The goal of the study was to identify and track the policies and environmental and macro-structural factors most related to illicit drug use among youth.  The study quantified, at a state level, various policies, environmental strategies, and structural factors that could impact the initiation and prevalence of illicit drug use and its consequences among youth.
  • Tri-City Study of Club Drug Use, Abuse and Dependence
    • Funding Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Delaware Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    • Project Summary: This study was designed to examine the psychometric properties of, and the sources of unreliability in identifying abuse of and dependence on, club drugs: MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, GHB and rohypnol.
    • Tri-City Study of Ecstasy Use Problems- A Latent Class Analysis.pdf​ ​​
  • Measures of Juvenile Delinquency Project: Integrating Individual Level and Aggregate Data
    • Funding Source: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
    • Project Summary: This project used student-level data collected by CDAS through the Delaware School Surveys and aggregate data from schools and districts, along with other archival data collected by state agencies to create a model at the state level for collection, analysis, integration and dissemination of data pertaining to juvenile self-reported drug use and delinquency.​
  • Making Over Substance Abuse Interventions on Campus: The MOSAIC Project
    • Funding Source: U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
    • Project Summary: During the 2007-2008 academic year, the Office of Judicial Affairs and Wellspring identified a group of students who violated the University’s Alcohol Policy but did not meet the criteria for counseling and/or an educational intervention. Clients came from three areas: 1) judicial referrals; 2) outreach to Greeks and athletes; and 3) open assessments. The offices agreed that a brief intervention would serve as an appropriate means of exploring the drinking patterns of these students along with an opportunity to discuss the benefits of modifying their drinking behavior. These brief interventions consisted of an hour-long information session about the risks of using alcohol and provided resources for students regarding alcohol use and abuse. Students were interviewed at the time of the brief intervention regarding alcohol and drug use, family and living situation, mental health issues, and criminal behavior. Students were also encouraged to participate in a 6-month follow-up survey.
  • University/Schools Alliance (USA)
    • Funding Source: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention through the Delaware Department of Highway Safety
    • Project Summary: University/Schools Alliance is a community coalition consisting of schools, state and community agencies, parents and youth supported by a Drug Free Communities Support Program grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and managed by the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). An outgrowth of the Building Responsibility Coalition funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to the University of Delaware and the City of Newark to reduce binge drinking and its consequences among college students, USA staff and members provide information, training, programming and support services to New Castle County schools and communities to reduce alcohol and other drug use by students.
  • Coordinated Approach To Child Health
    • Funding Source: Nemours Health and Prevention Services 
    • Project Summary: Nemours Health and Prevention Services contracted with the Center for Drug & Alcohol Studies to assist with the evaluation of Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) implementation in Delaware.  CATCH is a program used to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and overall healthy school environments.  Over the past few years, Nemours and the Delaware Department of Education have conducted several different CATCH trainings across the state.  This evaluation will assess how CATCH implementation is going, and also determine if there are other supports that can be provided to schools. The CATCH implementation evaluation involves online surveys and on site observations.  The observations are being completed in PE classes for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th graders at a sample of elementary and middle schools in Delaware.  CDAS observers are using a standardized protocol, System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT), which provides data on the amount of minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that students participate in during PE class.  These observations are designed to be non-intrusive, and they do not require the teachers or school to do anything different than they would usually do.
  • Day Care Survey Administration for NPHS Healthy Practice Study
    • Funding Source: Nemours Health and Prevention Services
    • Project Summary: In response to the health care community’s concerns about increasing levels of childhood obesity, Nemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS) has designed and implemented interventions aimed at creating policy and practice changes among Early Care and Education Providers to support and encourage healthy eating and physical activity among younger children in child care settings.   To evaluate the impact of NHPS’ interventions at the child care provider level, it is necessary to assess the congruence, or degree of agreement, between awareness, policies, and practices among child care providers.  It is believed that those centers that have been working with NHPS will have a much higher congruence between awareness, policies, and practices than those that have not been reached through one or more of NHPS’ child care interventions.