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Research Projects

My core research agenda concerns how rural families and communities are navigating increased prevalence of substance use disorder and overdose.  I am particularly interested in the unintended consequences of drug policy on families and communities.  I have two additional projects in the areas of immigration policy and the utilization of social support networks.

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Kinship Care in Rural Appalachia

Drawing on 164 (and counting) ethnographic interviews in Appalachian Kentucky with relative caregivers, parents who use(d) drugs, and the systems that support and surveil these families, I document how families are navigating parental substance use disorder amid the opioid crisis.  I have a forthcoming paper in RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences that considers how social capital impacts relative caregivers' navigation of the legal system, a forthcoming chapter on informal caregivers in a legal volume on social parenthood through NYU Press, and a forthcoming chapter on institutional avoidance among parents who use drugs in a social science volume on the child welfare system through NYU Press.  I am currently writing two additional articles and a book manuscript on the ways kinship care policy impacts family dynamics and parents' recovery.


Rural Communities Responding to the Opioid Crisis

While conducting my fieldwork for the above project on kinship care, I also collected additional data, including 111 in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation, on community understandings and responses to the opioid crisis in rural Appalachia.  I have written a paper investigating how the opioid crisis has impacted understandings of disability and disability assistance that is under review, and I am writing three additional papers on place-based inequalities in access to treatment within rural Appalachia, shifting attitudes towards MOUD/MAT and syringe service programs, and the relationship between social networks and legal responses to substance use.

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Expanding Rural Health Access through a Teaching Mobile Clinic

Under PI Michael McShane, PSU College of Medicine and Penn State Health are implementing a teaching mobile health unit that will serve dual purposes of providing free, preventive services to people in medically underserved communities in rural Pennsylvania and training medical students in providing high-quality care. As a collaborator, I am conducting a needs assessment for our initial service community and a qualitative evaluation of the clinic's impact on expanding access to health services.


The National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP)

From 2014-2019, I served as the Project Coordinator for NURP, a longitudinal, multi-sited study investigating the impact of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on young adults. In addition to a number of policy reports and journal articles that have come out from this study, I am writing a book with PI Roberto Gonzales and Benjamin Roth, under contract with UC Press, that will provide a comprehensive overview of our findings--demonstrating the legal duality which young people experience once attaining DACA status.

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Avoidance and Social Networks

Under PI Mario Small, our team has conducted two nationally-representative surveys that investigate whom people avoid talking to regarding sensitive topics and how this avoidance affects well-being.  One survey probes issues regarding respondents' health, work, and relationships, while the other considers respondents' recent experiences of discrimination and mistreatment.  We have one manuscript under review and an additional manuscripts in preparation.

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