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APU Receives Major Research Grant

by University Relations

Azusa Pacific entered the ranks of major research institutions when it received its first federally funded research award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The $713,644 grant supports a four-year project, “Mobile Continuing Care Approach for Youth,” directed by new faculty member Rachel Gonzales-Castaneda, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychology. The research effort involves developing and testing the feasibility and effectiveness of a recovery support program using mobile technology, specifically text messaging, for youth transitioning out of substance abuse treatment facilities. The text messages serve as recovery support to remind them of their recovery goals and important relapse prevention skills learned during treatment, and provide them with recovery-oriented resources in their communities.

“After working in the field of public health, I realized there was a pretty wide gap when it came to the availability of effective recovery support programs for substance-using adolescents,” said Gonzales-Castaneda, who has more than 10 years of addiction research experience. “This research addresses this gap. The overall goal is to help recovering youth successfully transition back into their local communities by providing them with a mobile-based recovery support vehicle. I hope that this research will establish an effective model for preventing continued substance abuse and improve the quality of life among these young people, their families, and the larger community.”

The project, conducted for its first year at UCLA, successfully transferred to APU for its remaining four years due to collaborative efforts by David Weeks, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Lou Hughes, Ph.D., director of the Office of Sponsored Research and Grants; Annie Tsai, Ph.D., chair and professor in the Department of Psychology; and Robert Welsh, Ph.D., chair and associate professor in the Department of Psychology. The transfer process included an application and NIH’s evaluation of the university’s resources and equipment. “It is an honor to house APU’s very first NIH grant,” said Weeks. “Dr. Gonzales-Castaneda’s research will make significant contributions to the study of adolescent drug abuse treatment and enrich the university’s research agenda.”

“This grant puts the university on the NIH’s radar for future prospects. It also presents an enormous opportunity for APU,” said Gonzales-Castaneda. By entrusting students to assist her in this important research project as well as the evaluation process, she provides them with coveted hands-on experience essential in the field of psychology. Pending the acceptance of further NIH grant applications at the end of four years, Gonzales-Castaneda plans to continue her research beyond the scope of the current grant with a focus on the project’s impact on recovering youth.

Originally published in the Winter '11 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).