Top of Page
Skip main navigation

Research & Community Outreach

NSU's College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Department of Justice and Human Services conducts and develops scholarly research aimed at improving success in both the academic and South Florida communities. The department continuously seeks to collaborate with schools and other community agencies.

Center for Applied Research on Substance Abuse and Health Disparities (ARSH)

The principal mission of ARSH is the production, dissemination, and utilization of scientific knowledge in the areas of substance abuse, health risk behaviors, and health disparities among vulnerable populations.

An Examination of Prescription Gabapentin/Pregabalin Initiation, Misuse, and Consequences

An emerging and understudied aspect of the prescription drug misuse crisis is the misuse of anticonvulsants, including gabapentin and pregabalin (GABA). Data indicate that GABA drug misuse is growing, especially among prescription opioid misusers who may consume GABA drugs to potentiate the effects of prescription opioids and/or heroin. Data on GABA drug misuse are urgently needed to contribute to public health knowledge and to inform public policy, prescribing practices, and prevention approaches. A social ecology theory-driven design is being utilized to describe GABA drug misuse, and examine risk and resilience factors that influence initiation, escalation, and consequences, from the vantage points of substance users and prescribers. This study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

Cross-National Survey of Pharmaceutical Diversion in the U.S.

The abuse and diversion of prescription opioid analgesics is a substantial public health problem. This study collects national surveillance data on the nature and extent of pharmaceutical diversion. The study includes a quarterly survey of prescription drug diversion completed by a national sample of law enforcement and regulatory agencies who engage in prescription drug diversion investigations. Participants include approximately 250 diversion investigators in 49 states, including rural, suburban, and urban areas. This study forms part of the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS®) System, operated by Denver Health and Hospital Authority.

Cross-National Survey of Pharmaceutical Diversion in Canada

The abuse and diversion of prescription opioid analgesics is a substantial public health problem. This study collects national surveillance data on the nature and extent of pharmaceutical diversion. The study includes a quarterly survey of prescription drug diversion completed by a national sample of law enforcement and regulatory agencies who engage in prescription drug diversion investigations. Participants include investigators in each province, including rural, suburban, and urban areas. This study is funded by Canadian Consumer Products & Pharmaceutical Safety, Inc. – a non-for-profit agency based in Toronto.

A Self-Assessment Intervention for Young Adult Polydrug Users

Efficacious interventions to reduce drug use and its consequences for club drug using populations are few. Based on prior 18-month longitudinal natural history research of club and prescription drug using young adults, this study tested interviewer and self-administered comprehensive health and social risk assessments as distinct interventions compared to a waitlist control. The outcomes for this National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study were recently published:

Kurtz, S. P., Buttram, M. E., Pagano, M. E., & Surratt, H. L. (2017). A randomized trial of brief assessment interventions for young adults who use drugs in the club scene. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 78, 64-73.

Risk Reduction for Urban Substance Using MSM

Substance-using men who have sex with men (MSM) are among the groups at highest risk for HIV infection in the U.S. This study tested the efficacy of a small group sexual and substance use risk reduction intervention based on empowerment theory compared to an enhanced efficacious control condition among 515 high risk non-in-treatment MSM substance users. The outcomes for this National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study were recently published:

Kurtz, S. P., Stall, R. D., Buttram, M. E., Surratt, H. L., & Chen, M. (2013). A randomized trial of a behavioral intervention for high risk substance-using MSM. AIDS and Behavior, 17(9), 2914-2926.

NSU-BSO Partnership

NSU and the Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO) have created a partnership between the largest independent institution of higher education in Florida and the nation’s largest full service public safety agency. This partnership, which includes the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County, was initially developed as a way to create educational opportunities for Broward County’s finest men and women: BSO’s 5,800 employees. However, the scope of the relationship has broadened to include a multitude of other opportunities to improve the quality of life for public safety officials and citizens, on a local, national, and global level.

Research Areas

Preparing Foster Care to Support Individuals with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities

Principal Investigator: Susan Kabot, Ed.D., CCC-SLP
Investigators: Maribel Del Rio-Roberts, Psy.D., Jacob Connolly, M.S.

Autism Grant

Funded through an NSU Presidential Grant. Agreement among measures of autism spectrum disorders in school-age children. Quantitative study to examine concordance and discordance rates among 4 measures of ASD in school-age children. The study will also attempt to delineate which specific measures are more clinically useful in predicting high- or low-functioning ASD in school-age children.

A Program Evaluation of the Summer Supported Training & Employment Program (STEPS)

Funded by an NSU Quality of Life grant. This project is a formal program evaluation of the Summer Supported Training & Employment Program (STEPS). The Summer Supported Training & Employment Program (STEPS) funded by the Children's Services Council (CSC) of Broward County was established to prepare students with disabilities in the transition process to enter the workforce after graduation by providing them with jobs in a variety of locations throughout Broward County. The program evaluation is being conducted in partnership with CSC in order to determine whether STEPS is successfully preparing students to obtain and sustain employment after graduation. In addition, NSU will evaluate the impact that the program has on its participants' overall quality of life and ability to function independently.

Employability Skills Group for Adults with Asperger Syndrome (AS)

Funded by an NSU President's Research and Development Grant. The goal of the proposed study is to implement an employability skills group that will blend cognitive-behavioral techniques, such as direct instruction, modeling, role-play, performance feedback, and reinforcement, which have been found to be effective in improving social functioning in individuals with AS and high-functioning ASD. A mixed-methods approach will be used to investigate the effectiveness of this program in increasing work-related autonomy and improving the quality of life of adults with AS.

Psychological Autopsies as a Tool for Law Enforcement in Death Investigations

Estep, D. (2016) "Psychological Autopsies as a Tool for Law Enforcement of Death Investigations." National Academy Associate, 18(6), 14.

Selecting the Next Generation of Police Chiefs

Gillette, T. (2017) “Selecting the Next Generation of Police Chiefs.” A paper of the BJA Executive Session on Police Leadership. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice; and St. Petersburg, FL: Center for Public Safety Innovation, St. Petersburg College.

Recidivism Among Florida State Prisoners

Under the existing research partnership between Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and Broward’s Sheriff Office (BSO), a study was undertaken beginning in the fall of 2015 to analyze the patterns of recidivism among inmates released from Florida state prisons to Broward County. The principal investigator was Marguerite Bryan, PhD, faculty researcher with the NSU-BSO Research Partnership program and full-time faculty with the Department of Justice and Human Services in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science (CAHSS). The main goals for the study was to (1) provide evidence-based assessments of the patterns of recidivism among Florida state prisoners released to Broward County; (2) to use the results of the study as a benchmark for future studies of released offenders in studying longitudinal patterns of recidivism; and, (3) to facilitate planning and implementation of the necessary prisoner reentry services of BSO. Preliminary findings of the random sample of 450 prisoners released indicates that approximately 63% of the prisoners were rearrested within 3 years of their release. This recidivism rate is very like that found in a national study of state prisoners released in 2005 across 30 states. In the national study, it was reported that approximately 68% of the prisoners were rearrested within 3 years after their release from their respective state prisons. Further analyses are being conducted in terms of the demographic and criminogenic characteristics of the prisoners and associated rates of recidivism with these characteristics.

Principal Investigator: Marguerite Bryan

Study of Armed Encounters of Law Enforcement Officers in Broward County, Florida

In an effort to ensure that the tactical training that Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) provides is addressing the most current issues, the agency performs an annual review of the reports of officers killed in the line of duty. The department at BSO reviews the common factors in each case with both the officers and the suspects and this information is presented to the agency during phase 3 of in – service training. This data allows the agency to provide training that is current and relevant to threats that face law enforcement. While this information is extremely valuable and pertinent, the agency is unable to capture a lot of information that could certainly provide an even more detailed picture of how law enforcement officers respond to armed threats. Currently, no all encompassing report exist detailing information of armed encounters not resulting in an officer fatality. Information on encounters when officers survive, hit suspects, or fires their weapons without hitting suspects is non existent.

The purposes of the present study are twofold: (1) to identify factors that influence the life or death outcome of law enforcement officer encounters with civilians in Broward County, and (2) to disseminate these findings and their implications to training officers and their trainees to improve law officer training in the municipalities of Broward County. This study proposes to undertake a comprehensive analysis of armed encounters of law enforcement officers in Broward County for the past 10 years to incorporate data for both officer fatality and officer survival when a weapon is discharged. The study will also provide current training information on armed encounters and will be beneficial not only to BSO but other law enforcement agencies in the state and across the nation that will be able to determine whether their training addresses crucial information.

Principal Investigator: Tammy Kushner, Psy.D.
Investigators: Marguerite Bryan, Ph.D, Leslie Taylor, Ph.D., Zack Scott, Deputy

JAFCO Watch Me Grow Program (NSU Quality of Life Grant)

The Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options (JAFCO) Watch Me Grow program is a comprehensive intervention parent-child intervention program designed for children between the ages of 24 and 36 months of age. The program will serve children that have been either diagnosed with a developmental disability or considered at-risk for being diagnosed with a developmental disability and will begin in January 2017. The Watch Me Grow program offered at the JAFCO Abilities Center will be a comprehensive intervention program comprised of three different components. First, there is an Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) component that utilizes the Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research (S.T.A.R.) curriculum to improve the child’s communication and maladaptive behavior. The second component will include is a more traditional Mommy and Me group that will take place on the third day of the program. The Mommy and Me group will include more non-structured recreational activities such as Art, Music, and Play for the parent and child to enjoy.  Finally, the third component of the program is the support component. This component will consist of several areas. The first support component included is the home-based support. Since the Watch Me Grow Program will focus on generalizing new skills to the home environment, at the beginning of each 8 week session, a program representative will visit each family’s home to put supports in place to facilitate generalization.  The Watch Me Grow program will also incorporate a strong case management and family support component.  

The objective of the Watch Me Grow program on overall parenting stress, positive parent-child interactions, and ASD symptoms.  We will aim to achieve this objective through an investigation of the impact of the program via completion of several measures. In conclusion, the Watch Me Grow Program will be a comprehensive hybrid model of intervention for young children at-risk for or with an existing diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This program is innovative in that never before has an early intervention program combined the component of an established Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) that utilizes the Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research (S.T.A.R.) curriculum with the added components of participation in a more traditional Mommy and Me group and parent support offerings. It is hypothesized that the integration of these components into a comprehensive program will positively impact parenting stress, the parent-child relationship, and autism symptoms. 

Principal Investigator: Maribel Del Rio-Roberts

Project Aging Out

Funded through an NSU Quality of Life grant. Single subject qualitative design to identify transitional barriers to accessing post-high-school education for adolescents in foster care.

A Case Study of a Pre-Placement Emergency Respite and Assessment Facility for Children in the Child Welfare System

Jointly funded by ChildNet and NSU. A collective case study approach will be used to examine SafePlace, an emergency respite and assessment facility for children within the child welfare system. Specifically, this approach will be used to gather in-depth information on multiple aspects of the program, including the factors influencing participants’ experience of SafePlace and continued care of children and families as they progress through the child welfare system.
Application of a Bioterrorism and All Hazards Preparedness Training Program for Individuals Working with the Homeless

This ongoing project, funded by Nova Southeastern University's Abraham S. Fischler College of Education, seeks to understand and evaluate the effectiveness of a Bioterrorism and All-Hazards Preparedness training program for individuals that work with the homeless population. Specifically, we are examining the effects of a training course in Basic Awareness of Bioterrorism and All-Hazards Preparedness designed to provide competence and confidence to those who may provide services to homeless individuals during emergency situations. The program was developed by Nova Southeastern University's Center for Bioterrorism and All-Hazard Preparedness (CBAP) and has already been successfully implemented to 45 health care disciplines and first responders in 48 states and 13 foreign countries. Participation in the study has been made available to all staff and supervisors that are employed at the Broward Outreach Homeless Assistance. Participants completed a pre and post content evaluation that was designed by Nova Southeastern University's Center for Bioterrorism and All-Hazard Preparedness (CBAP) and took part in a 1 hour brief focus group to discuss their thoughts and reactions about the intervention as a way to obtain information regarding changes that can be made for successful future trainings. Participants will complete a six month follow-up evaluation in March 2010.

COATCH (Collaborative Outreach Assessment/Treatment for Co-Occurring Homeless)

Funded through a 5-year, federally funded grant. Examining effects of an intensive case management program for individuals who are co-occurring homeless and substance abusers.

Case Management: Effectiveness of Case Manager Training Program for Working with the Homeless

This study will examine a 12 month program of biweekly training workshops for case managers and supervisors in the Broward County Human Services Department, Homeless Services Division. Topics that will be covered in the workshops include professional development, best practices in case management, working with clients with mental health and substance abuse issues, and working effectively with the homeless. The effectiveness of the program will be measured by ratings of job satisfaction, job knowledge, and the amount of turnover.
Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO)

Funded through an NSU Quality of Life grant. Needs Assessment of the Mentally Ill Involved in the Broward County Criminal Justice System (an example of mixed method study/program evaluation. A recent Department of Justice report indicated that more than 50% of people in jails and prisons across the nation have been treated for a mental illness and/or substance abuse problem prior to their being detained. This represents an increase from approximately 20% mentally ill inmates estimated only several years earlier. The incarceration of people with serious mental health needs accused of committing a crime in Broward County, Florida is not very different from those around the country although some studies suggest that Florida may even be higher than the national average.

The current project, an NSU Quality of Life grant funded by the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO), the nation's largest full service public safety agency, attempts to address this issue by conducting a needs assessment of the mentally ill involved in the criminal justice system in Broward County as well as of the systems of care that serve these individuals. Specifically, this project identified and interviewed key personnel in the judicial and mental health systems in Broward County in order to: (a) to identify best practices in providing services for the mentally ill in the criminal justice system; (b) ascertain the needs of individuals with a mental illness involved in the judicial system; (c) to identify the needs of the organization and of the mental health and judicial systems towards meeting these best practices; (d) provide recommendations regarding changes to the social services and judicial systems in Broward County. The resultant data were analyzed using an appropriate qualitative methodology in order to identify themes and patterns. In addition, a review of the best practices research literature in this area was conducted and incorporated into a report along with the interview findings.

Needs Assessment of Healthcare Services in Fire Rescue Response Calls

The Fire Rescue project seeks to understand and evaluate needs of fire rescue personnel, based on the types of mental health or emotional/behavioral services they often encounter on emergency calls. Specifically, this study will attempt to identify common challenges encountered by the Pompano Beach Fire Rescue Department personnel when dealing with emergency calls involving mental health and social services issues. Archival data are being reviewed to determine the percentage of social services, mental health, or emotional/behavioral related emergency calls received by fire rescue personnel. Information gathered from this study will be used to determine the most effective best practice model that can be implemented to address these calls.
ACT with Wisdom: Utilizing a Group Model of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Increase the Level of Psychological Resilience in Older Adults

Principal Investigator: Jacquelyn Browne, Ph.D., LCSW
Investigators: Blaise Amendolace, Psy.D., Claudia Martinez, B.B.A.

Project Train the Trainer

Funded through an NSU Quality of Life grant. 'Leaving a Legacy: a unique approach to community engagement for older adults' (an example of a program evaluation). This pilot project is an outgrowth of a Quality of Life grant that engaged older adults in a process of self-exploration and community service. 'Train the Trainer' is being offered in the City of Coral Springs for 9 weeks. A Manual was created and is being piloted with a variety of adult leaders who will then offer the program to members of the Coral Springs community.

The purpose of the project is to support the City of Coral Springs in its designation as a Community for a Lifetime (C.F.A.L.). The trainers will be able to facilitate a 10 week course, guiding the creation of meaningful opportunities for older adults to explore the second half of life in which inner abilities can be linked to community projects.

When Obama Became President: Meanings of Aging in a Time of Paradigm Shifts

Funded by an NSU Quality of Life grant. Barack Obama's election heralded a sense of change and possibility in a time of economic, social, and global crises. Within this harsh economic climate, the experience of aging contains its own shifting grounds. Entitlement programs and savings, meanings of retirement, leisure, and work have been and will be affected by the current state of the US economy. This qualitative study aims to explore what it means to be an older adult in these changing times.
Project RISE (Research, Inspiration, Support, Evaluation)

A trust-funded quality improvement initiative designed to enhance the quality of trust-funded out-of-school care programs for school-age youths in Miami-Dade County. The project's mission, through evaluation and training, is to raise the quality of care in ways that improve children's health and safety, promote academic success, and enhance their social and emotional development.
Evaluation of a Holistic Program for Military Service Members and their Families

Principal Investigator: Angela Yehl, Psy.D.
Investigators: Elda Kanzki-Veloso, Ph.D., Timothy Scala, Psy.D., C.F.C., James Pann, Ph.D., Marcelo Castro, Ph.D., Stephen Messer, Ph.D., Jacob Connoly, M.S., and Blake Michael Benson, B.S.

Understanding the Post-Deployment Experiences of OEF/OIF Marine Corps Veterans: A Phenomenological Study

Principal Investigator: Elda Kanzki-Veloso, Ph.D.
Investigators: Angela Yehl, Psy.D., James Pann, Ph.D., Marcelo Castro, Ph.D., Maribel Del Rio-Roberts, Psy.D., Jacob Connolly, M.S., and Blake Michael Benson, B.S.

VA Grant

Funded through an NSU Quality of Life grant. The Study will aim to reduce mental health issues and improve veteran access to care by providing "wraparound" services to military veteran participants, who have tested positive for PTSD. The participant and his/her family will receive wraparound intensive case management and mental health services, to include individual, family/marital, and group therapy. The wraparound program will also include the use of a peer mentor to provide guidance and support, in order to reduce stigma and encourage the participant to access needed services.

Returning Veterans Assistance Center for Excellence Program. United Way RFP FY 2011 Community Impact Area: Health (Grant Funded)

Principal investigators: Kimberly Durham, Psy.D. and Angela Yehl, Psy.D.
Investigators: Timothy Scala, Psy.D., Denise Crammer, Psy.D.

Program Evaluation of United Way of Broward County’s Mission United

Funded by United Way of Broward County. A program evaluation will be conducted of Mission United, a program supporting US military service members, veterans and their families in Broward County by helping them re-acclimate to civilian life. Key focus areas include employment, education, health, legal assistance, emergency financial aid, and housing.
Return to top of page