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What We Do

The UMass Lowell Center for Community Research and Engagement draws on the strength of community leaders and the region's cultural diversity and provides the following programs to bring faculty, staff, students and community partners together.
Below is a list of our most recent projects.

City of Lowell Community Opioid Outreach Program

The Lowell Police Department and its partners have developed a three-year program to address the opioid crisis, beginning in Sept. 2016 and extending through Aug. 2019. It has two parts: (1) an intervention component for overdose victims and (2) an early intervention program for their children. Developed by the LPD, Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the Lowell Health Department, Lowell House, Inc. (LHI), and the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell (MHA), the project has commissioned the UMass Lowell Center for Community Engagement and Research, along with key faculty with expertise in addiction and criminal justice, public health and epidemiology, to monitor the project timeline and milestones and measure the results of the interventions against project goals. 

Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance/Smart Policing Initiative Program, the intervention (the Community Opioid Outreach Program, CO-OP) engages an LPD officer and staff from the Lowell Health Department and from LHI. The team will make contact with an overdose victim within 24-48 hours and connect them to immediate treatment services. The early intervention, Project CARE (Child Assessment Response Evaluation), will involve MHA; it will target the children, grandchildren and minor siblings of overdose victims and fast-track them to a host of services including counseling. For information: Robin Toof and Wilson Palacios (co-PIs), Nicole Champagne and Melissa Wall.

City of Springfield Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Project

Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, this project was implemented Sept. 2016 through Sept. 2017. Community stakeholders worked together to develop strategies to transform neighborhoods of distress into neighborhoods of opportunity. The UMass Lowell Center for Community Research and Engagement assembled and analyzed qualitative and quantitative data in the South End neighborhood to assist the neighborhood in developing their strategy; helped create measurable objectives; and provided technical assistance to improve the likelihood of success. Residents, the police, local human services and governmental agencies and businesses will identify, and hope to eventually mitigate, vulnerable spots for crime and, at the same time, empower residents to advocate for the positive changes they feel are needed in their neighborhoods. For more information: Robin Toof, Jason Rydberg, Kelly Social and Melissa Wall.

UMass Lowell New England Healthy Homes Training Center

UMass Lowell New England Healthy Homes Training Center is a training partner of the National Healthy Home Training Center and Network, in association with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Center brings together public health, housing and energy-efficiency practitioners to promote and cost-effective methods to reduce or prevent housing-related health hazards. It provides a venue for exchange of best practices and new research, and promotes cross-training of these professionals.

For information, contact David Turcotte.

Healthy Homes for Elders

Studies show that asthma is under-diagnosed among senior citizens and that asthma-related morbidity and mortality among the elderly is increasing. The goal of this study is to measure the effectiveness of providing the elderly in Lowell public housing with interventions such as educational materials, mattress and pillow covers, green cleaning supplies, HEPA vacuum cleaners and pest control items to improve health and reduce medical costs. The researchers will collect health data – symptoms, medication use, emergency room visits – on approximately 90 senior citizens with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease before any interventions. After conducting a home environmental assessment that includes testing dust samples, measuring nitrogen dioxide and evaluating cigarette smoke exposure, the research team will recommend improvements to residents. After one year, the team will evaluate the impact of the interventions on indoor air quality, asthma trigger activities, respiratory health and quality of life.

Healthy Teens-Healthy Relationships Program Evaluation

This on-going initiative by the Lowell Community Health Center has as its central purpose to reduce teen pregnancies and STDs among youth in Greater Lowell through implementation of an evidence-based curriculum and increasing protective factors. The Center for Community Research and Engagement's role is to provide continuous technical assistance, development of process evaluation measures, and analysis and reports concerning the program’s outcomes. For information: Robin Toof (PI) and Melissa Wall.

Hospital-based Community Needs Assessment

During 2016, Lowell General Hospital and the Greater Lowell Health Alliance commissioned the Center for Community and Research Engagement for this needs assessment to understand individual health status, the strengths of its healthcare institutions, and solutions to identify problems. Led and facilitated by Prof. David Turcotte with area stakeholders, the assessment identified top health issues and next steps based and the scope of disparities and identified gaps in services. The report described next steps to be taken on a consensus around priorities and potential solutions.

Lowell Community Safety Initiative

This youth-gang and violence-reduction project is funded by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Safety and Security and has been in process from 2011-2016. Led by the Lowell Police Department, it brings together youth-serving organizations across the city, the police and school departments, the Mayor’s Office, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, and health centers to collaborate around strategies to prevent or divert youth from getting involved in gangs or violence. The Center for Community Research and Engagement (CCRE) has gathered and interpreted data that can assist partners in conducting strategic planning, and especially help measure outcomes and impacts of crime suppression efforts. Due to faculty expertise in pertinent literature, CCRE has also been able to guide this collaboration concerning effective approaches, and help create the strategic planning process for the crime-reduction plan.  For more information, reach Robin Toof (PI) and Melissa Wall.

Lowell Healthy Homes Programs

By adopting a coordinated, comprehensive and holistic approach, the Lowell Healthy Homes Program aims to reduce the burden of asthma, improve the quality of life for asthmatic children and their families, and create safer home environments. The program focuses on several housing issues including mold and mildew, pest management, dust mites, and home safety. The program works with families in Lowell that have at least one asthmatic child under the age of 15, over a 10-month period to remediate potential asthma triggers, while providing education related to asthma mitigation and prevention. 

Published in 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health, a study by Prof. Turcotte with multiple collaborators evaluated the health outcomes of Greater Lowell low-income children and developed cross-cultural interventions to improve housing quality. The strategies were shown to save nearly $1 million in health care costs annually. A US Department of Housing and Urban Development grant awarded in 2016 supports a three-year study to assess the sustainability of positive health outcomes due to home-environment improvements, based on the interventions implemented by the Healthy Homes Program. 

For more information please contact David Turcotte.

Lowell Opioid Overdose Project

Funded by the US Bureau of Justice Assistance, Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), this three-year project, which was initiated in Sept, 2016, focuses on prescription drug monitoring to combat the opioid crisis. As prescription drugs are the genesis of so many opioid addictions, prescription monitoring can be an addiction prevention strategy.  The Lowell Opioid Overdose Project (LOOP) will increase the Lowell Police Department’s use of the Mass. PMP both as an investigative tool and data source to characterize the scope of the opioid crisis. The Center for Community Research and Engagement, along with key faculty in criminal justice and public health, will be responsible for a confidential database concerning criminal history drug use patterns of the non-fatal and fatal overdose victims. This will include city-level data on prescriptions written and filled, total dosage units by drug type and ancillary data that will help define the prescription drug and opiate abuse problem in the city. This data-will inform prevention, education, intervention and enforcement strategies developed during the grant period. Additionally, researchers will focus efforts on identifying PMP best practices in other communities and working with the PMP Center for Excellence to identify how these strategies can be incorporated into the Lowell program. For information: Robin Toof and Wilson Palacios (co-PIs), Melissa Morabito, Leland Ackerson and Melissa Wall.

Lowell School Department Elementary School Counseling Program

Funded by the US Department of Education, this school department project was implemented in Sept. 2016 through June 2017. The UMass Lowell Center for Community Research and Engagement was asked to collect data from the stakeholders concerning challenges, outcomes and recommendations for change to enhance the program. This program development effort by the city seeks to assist refugee and newcomer-elementary school children in their transition to the Lowell school system by increasing support through social workers and art therapy, and provide mental health and trauma-sensitive professional development for teachers and parent workshops. For more information: Robin Toof (PI).

Working on Wellness

Working on Wellness is a statewide initiative, implemented from July 2015 to June 2017, and funded by the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund, between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Health Resources in Action (Boston) and Advancing Wellness (Watertown). The Center for Community Research and Engagement worked in collaboration with UMass Lowell’s Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW), and UMass Medical School to evaluate this project. The external evaluation will assess the project’s outcomes relative to its goals to develop, implement and sustain comprehensive, evidence-based workplace policies and programs that promote and protect employee health. The evaluation will examine health outcomes, including disability and work limitations, and health care utilization and expenditures. For more information: Laura Punnet (PI), Robin Toof and Melissa Wall.