Grant Projects

  • Evaluation of the Milwaukee County Family Drug Treatment Court
  • Principal Investigator: Joshua Mersky
  • Total Award: $21,238
  • Period: 1/1/17 – 12/31/17
  • Funding Source: Milwaukee County Behavioral Health/
    Doris Duke Foundation
  • Improving Health Through Expanded Work
  • Principal Investigator: James Toptizes
  • Co-Investigators: Joshua Mersky and David Pate
  • Total Award: $226,404
  • Period: 1/1/17 – 12/31/21
  • Collaborating Agency: Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP)
Research Overview
  • Improving Health through Expanded Work aims to enhance transitional employment services in urban and rural communities by promoting access to primary and behavioral health care for job-seeking adults. In addition to promoting access to subsidized employment, the enhanced program will help participants: (a) obtain health insurance coverage, (b) establish care with a primary care physician, and (c) complete a trauma screening protocol that is followed by, if indicated, a referral to mental health services. Qualitative data are gathered through semi-structured interviews to understand participants’ social histories and employment experiences. For the quantitative arm of the evaluation, participants are randomly assigned to either the enhanced transitional jobs programs or the conventional jobs program. Analyses will assess change over time in participant outcomes, including sustained employment, access to health and mental health services, and improved psychosocial functioning.

  • RA Children and ICFW
  • Principal Investigator: James Toptizes
  • Total Award: $49,836
  • Period: 9/1/16 – 12/31/17
  • Collaborating Agency: Children’s Hospital of WI
Research Overview
  • The primary purpose of the project is to execute the translational research and practice agenda of the Institute for Child and Family Well-being: A partnership between Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

  • Evaluation of the Alternative Response Program
  • Principal Investigator: Colleen Janczewski
  • Co-Investigator: Joshua Mersky
  • Total Award: $121,739
  • Period: 10/1/16 – 9/30/17
  • Collaborating Agency: WI Dept. Children and Families
Research Overview
  • The evaluation of Alternative Response in Wisconsin is a mixed-method, longitudinal study of a major system reform taking place in 22 Wisconsin county child welfare agencies. Alternative Response (AR), i.e., Differential Response, is currently implemented by many states and localities throughout the country, with the aim of serving families with low-to-moderate safety concerns without launching an official investigation of maltreatment. Funded through the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, this evaluation is designed to (1) describe current implementation efforts in Wisconsin, (2) assess whether the implementation of AR is associated with improvements in family engagement and child safety outcomes, and (3) document the startup and ongoing costs associated with AR implementation relative to traditional response systems. Taken together these three evaluation components have the potential to make novel contributions to knowledge about AR implementation, its impact on families, and the investment needed from public child welfare systems to support its adoption and success.

  • Parent Education and Support
  • Principal Investigator: Joshua Mersky
  • Total Award: $4,037
  • Period: 1/1/16 – 12/31/17
  • Collaborating Agency: United Way of Greater Milwaukee
Research Overview
  • This project targets the 47,000 children under age 6 living in the city of Milwaukee. Children in surrounding areas will also benefit, but won’t be counted in the data.
  • Specific systems change strategy and key project activities This project has several aims and related strategies to improve developmental and behavioral health of children in Milwaukee:
  • 1. Educate and build capacity of clinicians, childcare centers, and home visitors to expand screening for children under age 6 in the city of Milwaukee by integrating ASQ screening into their practices
  • 2. Educate and engage parents in understanding and supporting their child’s development
  • 3.  Use value stream mapping to continually improve the process of screening, referral and service
  • 4. Establish a centralized data hub for feedback to contributing sites and community trend analysis to guide system improvement
  • 5. Promote private and public policy support to expand screening and behavioral services for children to address unmet needs and disparities


  • Young Caregiver Training and Intervention: Feasibility and baseline data project
  • Principal Investigator: Melinda Kavanaugh
  • Funding Source: ALS Association
  • Total Award: $30,000
  • Period: 4/1/17 – 3/31/18
Research Overview
  • This project is a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the National ALS Association and two chapters – Wisconsin and Rocky Mountain. The goal of the project is to develop a national training and education curriculum and intervention for isolated and unskilled caregivers – youth between the ages of 8-18. This project specifically aims to provide persons with ALS and their family caregivers access to high quality, consistent and compassionate support services, through currently non-existent caregiver training and support to youth who are engaged in care. By working across chapters, this project strengthens the ability of the Chapters to provide targeted, evidenced-based, and rigorously tested caregiver services which will be made available to the ALS community nationwide.

  • Women of Worth (extension)
  • Principal Investigator: Lisa Berger
  • Total Award: $12,749
  • Period: 4/1/17 – 12/31/17
  • Funding Source: Racine All Saints Foundation
Research Overview
  • The Women of Worth (WOW) project provides comprehensive treatment to women with substance use disorders. Programming is based on the Family-Centered Treatment model, whereby both women and their families can receive individual and family services. This project, originally funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program, received additional funds from the Racine All Saints Foundation to conduct follow-up data collection through the end of 2017.

  • Eviction Defense Project Evaluation
  • Principal Investigator: Tina Freiburger
  • Total Award: $25,000
  • Period: 2/10/17 – 9/30/18
  • Funding Source: Legal Action of Wisconsin

  • Evaluation of the Vistelar Training Initiative
  • Principal Investigator: Tina Freiburger
  • Total Award: $79,995
  • Period: 3/1/17 – 2/28/19
  • Funding Source: Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division

  • Milwaukee County Adult Drug Treatment Court: Service Enhancement Project
  • Principal Investigator: Tina Freiburger
  • Total Award: $194,997
  • Period: 10/1/16 – 9/30/19
  • Funding Source: Milwaukee County

  • Improving the Transition from Jail to the Community for Impoverished Women
  • Principal Investigator: Susan Rose
  • Co-Investigators: Tom Lebel and Joan Blakey
  • Total Award: $25,000
  • Period: 9/1/16 – 8/31/17
  • Funding Source: UWM Social Compact Grant Funds
Research Overview
  • The project extends the ongoing partnership between UWM, the Benedict Center, and the Milwaukee County House of Correction. Based on past successful partnerships, the team will identify more effective methods of assisting incarcerated women in returning to the community and moving towards more productive lives for themselves, using a treatment/control research design.  The goal of the project is to help women connect quickly and successfully to substance use treatment, mental and physical health care, and concrete resources, such as housing, job training, and employment.

  • CSWE Policy Practice in Field Initiative
  • Principal Investigator: Jeanne Wagner
  • Total Award: $16,969
  • Period: 8/1/16 – 4/30/17
  • Funding Source: Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
Research Overview
  • This project aims to increase opportunities for social work field students, both at the graduate and undergraduate level, to enhance their educational experience and expand their understanding of how policy plays an important role in social work practice across areas and levels. The goal will be to increase students’ understanding of how public policies impact the extent and level of poverty for individuals and families of color, and to inspire social work students to embrace their responsibility to be lifelong advocates for social justice.

  • The ReCast Milwaukee Project: Resiliency in Communities after Stress & Trauma
  • Principal Investigator: David Pate
  • Co-Investigator: Paul Florsheim
  • Total Award: $662,461
  • Period: 1/1/17 – 9/27/17 (up to 5 years)
  • Funding Source: City of Milwaukee
Research Overview
  • Drs. Pate and Florsheim will lead the evaluation team for the ReCast project. Tasks to be completed in the first year include leading a community needs assessment process, which will result in the identification of primary violence and trauma prevention targets and a program evaluation plan.

  • Milwaukee Housing First Project
  • Principal Investigator: Gwat-Yong Lie
  • Funding Sources: Milwaukee County Housing Division (Sponsor); SAMHSA (Prime Sponsor)
  • Total Award: $189,630
  • Period: 9/29/17 – 9/28/20
  • Collaborating Agencies: Center for Veterans’ Independence, Guest House, Wisconsin Community Services, Crisis Resource Center, SET Ministries, IMPACT 211
Research Overview
  • The Milwaukee County Housing First (MCHF) project is funded by a 3-year Cooperative Agreement to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI) grant award from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to Milwaukee County Housing Division (MCHD). The purpose of the project is to enhance and expand the infrastructure for an integrated continuum of care for chronically homeless individuals and veterans, homeless veterans, homeless families and homeless youth, all of whom struggle with substance use disorders, serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbance, or co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. Project initiatives include, developing a network of partner agencies working collaboratively to provide accessible, effective, comprehensive, coordinated, integrated and evidence-based substance use and mental health treatment services; sustainable permanent housing services; peer support and other critical services. In addition, the partnership is committed to addressing behavioral health disparities among ethnic and racial minorities in terms of service access, use, and outcomes. Dr. Gwat-Yong Lie serves as the project evaluator.

  • Improving the Transition from Jail to the Community for Impoverished Women
  • Principal Investigator: Susan Rose
  • Co-Principal Investigators: Tom LeBel and Joan Blakey
  • Funding Source: Social Compact Grant/UW-Milwaukee
  • Total Award: $25,000
  • Period: 9/1/16 – 8/31/17
Research Overview
  • This project aims to assist incarcerated women to successfully re-enter their community by identifying and addressing the challenges and barriers that often lead to recidivism. The project will measure the effectiveness of an enhanced reentry intervention for women. In addition, focus groups with incarcerated women and recently released women will be conducted at the House of Correction and the Benedict Center to better understand the motivation and barriers facing incarcerated women as they are released from jail and resume their lives in the community. The outcome of the project is the ability of these women to connect quickly and successfully to substance use treatment, mental and physical health care, and concrete resources and services (e.g., housing, job training, and employment). This project extends the ongoing partnership among UWM, the Benedict Center, and the Milwaukee County House of Correction.

  • Learn-Earn-Grow
  • Principal Investigators: Bonnie Halvorsen and Kate Nelson
  • Funding Source: Social Compact Grant/UW-Milwaukee
  • Total Award: $24,953
  • Period: 1/1/17 – 7/30/17
Research Overview
  • The goal of the innovative Learn-Earn-Grow MKE project, funded by UWM’s Social Compact grant program, is to give Milwaukee high school juniors and seniors a pathway to higher education through urban agriculture jobs. After successfully applying to the program, students get training in essential skills, sustainable food systems, university STEM experiences (Learn), and get paid summer jobs (Earn) in urban agriculture (Grow). After the student goes through the program, s/he becomes qualified to rejoin the program as a student peer leader, and can eventually earn money for college. Project partners include Vincent High School, Boys & Girls Clubs of Milwaukee, Groundwork Milwaukee, Cream City Conservation Corp, American Red Cross, UWM’s Office of Sustainability and the Cooperative Institute for Urban Agriculture & Nutrition (CIUAN).

  • CSWE Policy Practice in Field Education
  • Principal Investigator: Jeanne Wagner
  • Funding Source: Council on Social Work Education
  • Total Award: $16,969
  • Period: 8/1/16 – 5/1/17  
Research Overview
  • The social work field education program was awarded funding through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to address disparities associated with race and poverty.
  • Beginning in the fall 2016 semester and continuing through spring 2017, several changes and learning opportunities have been added to the field practicum experience.
  • Students will complete field assignments that address the intersection of race and poverty; have the opportunity to participate in lobby/advocacy day at the Wisconsin Capitol with NASW-WI; present on the issue that they addressed during their project or assignment at a social justice and advocacy event at the end of the fall and spring semesters.

  • SBIRT Training for Substance Misuse Program
  • Principal Investigator: Lisa Berger
  • Funding Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Total Award: $777,412
  • Period: 9/1/13 – 8/31/17
Research Overview
  • UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare was selected as one of 15 sites nationwide to receive a federal grant in 2014 aimed at enhancing how social work students, medical residents, and student nurse practitioners work with patients who are at risk for or experiencing substance abuse problems.
  • The grant helps train multidisciplinary teams in a brief intervention called SBIRT (for Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment for Substance Misuse), a model that is particularly effective in primary care settings.

    • Evaluation of Illinois Birth Through Three IV-E Waiver
    • Principal Investigator: Nancy Rolock
    • Funding Sources: University of North Carolina (Sponsor); Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (Prime Sponsor); Administration for Children and Families, Health and Human Services [HHS] (Prime Sponsor)
    • Total Award: $46,446 subaward from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Period: 7/1/17 – 6/30/18
    • Collaborating Agencies / Community Partners:
      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Chicago, Chapin Hall Center for Children; Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
Research Overview
  • The Illinois Birth through Three IV-E Waiver (IB3) study is an evaluation of a five-year demonstration project, which will evaluate the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ (IDCFS) use of funds from Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to test the hypothesis that children from birth through three years of age who are placed in foster care will experience reduced trauma symptoms, increased permanency, reduced foster care re-entry, and improved well-being if they are provided with intensive, evidence-based trauma-informed interventions, as compared with similar children who are provided foster care services as usual.
  • The IB3 intervention provides therapeutic and psycho-educational services to very young children, aged birth through three, and their caregivers. It will serve children entering foster care in Cook County, Illinois, between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2018.

  • The Milwaukee Continuum of Supportive Services Project (MCSSP)
  • Principal Investigator: Gwat-Yong Lie
  • Funding Sources: City of Milwaukee (Sponsor); SAMHSA (Prime Sponsor)
  • Total Award: $158,511
  • Period: 10/1/14 – 9/29/17
  • Collaborating Agencies / Community Partners: Outreach Community Health Center, a federally-qualified health center; Community Advocates, Inc.; Dry Hootch, a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) serving veterans; the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC).
Research Overview
  • The primary objective of the project is to place homeless veterans and chronically homeless individuals in permanent supportive housing. Because many of the homeless present with co-occurring conditions of mental illness and behavioral health problems, referrals to and linkages with community-based service providers will be made; however, housing placement is not predicated on involvement and participation in treatment services. Based on the Housing First approach, the protocol is to first address the need for permanent housing as quickly as possible. After placement, case managers and peer specialists follow up with service referrals and linkages.
  • In addition to improving the behavioral health functioning of participants, another important project objective is to facilitate access to income and benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), FoodShare, and Medicaid.

    • Youth Oriented Substance Abuse and Trauma (YOSAT) Counseling Program
    • Principal Investigator: Laura Otto-Salaj
    • Funding Source: Health Resources and Services Administration
    • Total Award: $1.25 million
    • Period: 9/30/14 – 9/29/17
Research Overview
  • Funds from this grant are used to train social work master’s students in trauma-informed care and substance-abuse counseling for children, adolescents, and transitional age youth/young adults. The bulk of funds provide stipends for social work graduate students, each of whom receives a $10,000 fellowship over the course of two semesters.
  • Students complete field placement experiences in agencies that provide behavioral health services to children, youth, or transitional age adults and also have the opportunity to present program accomplishments and engage in career networking opportunities during YOSAT sponsored professional development events.

      • National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship (QIC-AG)
      • Principal Investigator: Nancy Rolock
      • Funding Sources: Spaulding for Children (Sponsor) Administration for Children and Families; Health and Human Services [HHS] (Prime Sponsor)
      • Total Award: $25,000,000 (UWM portion $1,800,000)
      • Period: 10/1/14 – 9/29/19
      • Collaborating Agencies: Spaulding for Children; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Social Work; University of Texas at Austin
      • Community Partners:
        Child welfare agencies in the following jurisdictions:
        Illinois
        Catawba County, North Carolina
        New Jersey
        Tennessee
        Texas
        Vermont
        Wisconsin
        Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
      • Additional information is available at: www.qic-ag.org
Research Overview
  • The National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) will work with eight sites across the country to develop, test, spread, and sustain effective permanency planning and post-permanency services and supports.
  • The QIC-AG will build on an existing evidence base that recognizes that the problems facing families after legal permanence often stem from the complex behavioral and mental health needs of traumatized children and youth (Testa, Snyder, Wu, Rolock & Liao, 2014; Rolock, 2015). Adoptive parents and legal guardians (caregivers) are often ill-prepared or ill-equipped to address these needs. Furthermore, the supports and services that are provided are often too late (when families have a weakened sense of commitment or are in crisis, rather than as a preventive measure), or inadequately address the needs of these families.
  • The development of appropriate culturally responsive supports and services is needed to address the unique and challenging behavioral, mental health, and medical issues that may threaten stability and long-term permanency commitments of these families. Finally, interventions that support families from pre-permanence through post-permanence are necessary to successfully achieve safety, well-being, and lasting permanence.

  • Smart Scale Up: Expanding Home Visiting With Fidelity
  • Principal Investigator: Joshua Mersky
  • Co-Investigators: James Topitzes and Michael Brondino
  • Funding Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.
    Award No. 1 D89MC26367-01-00.
  • Total Awards: $1,089,148
  • Period: 1/1/15 – 12/31/17
  • Collaborating Partners: Wisconsin Department of Children and Families; Wisconsin Department of Health Services; Milwaukee Health Department
Research Overview
  • This project is an evaluation of Wisconsin’s Family Foundations Home Visiting (FFHV) Program, which currently coordinates home visiting programs across 15 counties and four tribal regions. The evaluation examines whether FFHV programs show improvements in child and family outcomes, including maternal and child health, parenting, and child development.
  • Reinforcing the quasi-experimental study of statewide outcomes, this project launched The Healthy Families Study, a randomized trial of two home visiting programs at the Milwaukee Health Department. Interpretations of results are enhanced by collecting implementation fidelity data. The project also aims to promote advances in screening and assessment, including new information on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), in order to inform direct services and referral practices.

  • Smart Scale Up II: Promoting Family Engagement, Health and Mental Health
  • Principal Investigator: Joshua Mersky
  • Co-Investigators: James Topitzes, Colleen Janczewski, and Michael Brondino
  • Funding Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration
    Award No. 1 D89MC28259-01-00
  • Total Awards: $234,538
  • Period: 1/1/17 – 12/21/21
  • Collaborating Partners: Wisconsin Department of Children and Families; Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Research Overview
  • This project expands an ongoing evaluation of Wisconsin’s Family Foundations Home Visiting Program, which currently coordinates home visiting programs across 15 counties and four tribal regions. In addition to evaluating statewide program outcomes, this project launched the Families and Children Thriving (FACT) Study, a multi-wave, longitudinal investigation of client and staff health and well-being.
  • The FACT Study aims to generate new insights into maternal risk and protective factors, physical and mental health, parenting, as well as participation and engagement in services. The FACT Study also examines linkages between children’s early environments and their development, health, and well-being. Furthermore, data will be collected to assess the health and well-being of home visiting program personnel, including their history of adverse experiences, current levels of stress, burnout and secondary traumatic stress, and job satisfaction.

  • Training for Adoption Competence (TAC) program
  • Principal Investigators: Susan Rose (PI), Jeanne Wagner, and Melinda Kavanaugh (Co-Is)
  • Funding Source: C.A.S.E.
  • Total Award: $32,500
  • Period: 11/2/15 – 11/1/17

Research Overview
  • The TAC (Training for Adoption Competency) program involves a partnership between the UW-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.).
  • TAC is a licensed, post-graduate training program focused on skill acquisition in providing services to adopted persons, birth families, prospective adoptive parents, adoptive families, and kinship families. The 72 hour training program consists of 12 modules on various aspects of adoption practice followed by six monthly case consultation sessions designed to facilitate the transfer of learning to practice. The initiative is funded through a grant from the Jockey International Foundation in Kenosha, Wisconsin.