Protecting Vulnerable Families and Children in the Crosshairs of the Opioid Epidemic: A Research-Practice Partnership

The partnership will respond to increasing rates of opioid abuse and child maltreatment in low-income, rural communities in upstate New York.

Partners from the Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County (CCE-Tompkins) will use a mixed-methods approach to: 1) understand the association between opioid use and child maltreatment rates, 2) examine the role of family drug treatment courts in mitigating child maltreatment among families struggling with treatment, and 3) evaluate an evidence-based intervention that may reduce the risk of opioid abuse for low-income youth and families. The partners will elicit stakeholder views to understand the nature of the problem and potential responses and leverage national data sets to examine external shocks to the opioid supply and how these track to the incidence of child abuse. Both partners are committed to advancing institutional change at Cornell to support research-practice partnerships. First, a committee of university faculty and CCE-Tompkins staff will select highly skilled, well-recognized faculty members to serve as fellows and receive mentoring from the partnership leads. One goal is to change the image of the “successful researcher” to include those who conduct policy-relevant scholarship in collaboration with practitioners. Second, in addition to the required match for a mid-career fellow, Cornell has committed a post-doctoral fellow for the first half of the award, and an undergraduate intern to assist with activities at CCE-Tompkins. Third, Cornell leadership is committed to reviewing current support for research-practice partnerships campus-wide and initiating conversations about alternative tenure and promotion criteria for faculty. Finally, the partnership will build the capacity of CCE-Tompkins staff to facilitate high-quality evaluation work.