The Amazing Grandmothers may sound like a senior citizens aerobics team, but this group of women from the Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in East Baltimore have much more serious undertakings in mind: They are raising their grandchildren, whose parents are either absent from home or incapacitated by substance abuse.
The Amazing Grandmothers and three other programs designed to fight the epidemic substance abuse problem in East Baltimore are the first community-based participatory research projects funded by the new Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute. An awards ceremony was held last week in the Weinberg Building on the JHMI campus.
A review board made up of six community members and two Hopkins representatives awarded the four grants, which total about $163,000. The approved projects must go through one of the Johns Hopkins or Bayview Medical Center institutional review boards before funding can be released.
In all, the board received 12 applications for research grants. Proposals were required to focus on one of five areas addressing a substance abuse need and to represent a partnership between Hopkins faculty and a community organization.
The Amazing Grandmothers Project--a partnership between School of Nursing faculty member Laurie Edwards, Tench Tilghman Elementary School and the Amazing Grace church--was granted $34,184. The project will target 10 families in which grandmothers are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren. To assist these substitute parents, faculty and staff from other community-service programs, such as the Julie Community Center, will provide visits to the homes, an eight-week family nurturing program and a substance-abuse prevention program for the grandchildren.
The other three funded proposals were:
A partnership between Department of Psychiatry faculty member Brian Poeschla and the Mattie B. Uzzle Outreach Center, which will receive $31,076 to study whether initial substance-abuse screening and direct referral admissions from the community to the department's Intensive Treatment Unit will result in better outcomes.
A project by Annelle Primm of the Department of Psychiatry, Rosa Crum of the Bloomberg School of Public Health and Zion Baptist Church for $48,523 to examine the role of spirituality and religious practices in the treatment of patients with substance-abuse problems and severe mental illness.
A partnership between School of Nursing faculty member Marion D'Lugoff, the Wald Community Nursing Center and Heart, Body and Soul Inc. for $49,368 to expand on the Linking Individuals to Need and Continuing Support project. Substance abuse will now be included in primary care delivered at the Wald community clinics, and training in substance abuse screening will be offered to part-time community health workers through the Heart, Body and Soul program.
Claude Earl Fox, institute director, says he hopes these initial grants will be a springboard for community programs and Hopkins research projects to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an arm of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. "Community-based participatory research is a growing field, and I think we're going to see more money available from funding agencies like NIH," Fox says.
In addition to offering a chance for partnership between community programs and Hopkins, Fox says the institute's grants "help us understand better what the community wants in the way of substance abuse programs and give us a way to provide local residents with the tools to fight this problem."
Tom O'Toole, assistant professor of medicine and the institute's associate director, will meet with grant applicants who didn't receive funding to assist them in revising their proposals. "We want to improve their chance to obtain funding for their projects through Hopkins, NIH or any other funding opportunity," he says.
O'Toole says he is encouraged by the number of faculty from the JHMI campus's three schools who answered the call for grant proposals and that he believes "once faculty from all the health professional schools develop more of a comfort level and expertise in this kind of research, we'll see more activity."