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Community Research & Program Evaluation

The UMass Lowell Center for Community Research & Engagement has extensive experience in evaluating planning efforts and partnerships.

Many of CCRE's evaluation work is with diverse groups and has called for devising new evaluation strategies for collecting data and providing feedback to such groups.

Community Safety

CCRE works with local communities and law enforcement.

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.

City of Chelsea Byrne Criminal Justice Project

The City of Chelsea received one of eight grants nationwide from the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program. The grant leverages community, business, non-profit and city investments in support of greater public safety managed collaboratively through the Chelsea Thrives Initiative. CCRE is the research and evaluation partner. We will be collecting and analyzing qualitiative and quantitative data to assist stakeholders in developing their strategy, help create measurable objectives and provide technical assistance to improve the likelihood of success. For more information: Robin Toof, Jason Rydberg, 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.

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.

Community Health

Local hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers and public health departments are just some of the organizations CCRE partners with.

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.

Remaking Senior Centers for Diverse Populations and a "New Old Age"

This project will investigate the extent to which Senior Centers are fulfilling their mandate to serve the most disadvantaged older adults and to meet the needs of diverse consituencies. CCRE will identify programs with the greatest potential to provide necessary resources to diverse populations; promote meaningful inter-ethnic and intergenerational exchanges and relationships; and stimulate the meaningful civic engagement that has been identified as an essential ingredient for both optimal aging and societal well-being.

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.

Workplace Health

People spend a significant amount of time at work and CCRE helps evaluate if workplaces are healthy.

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.

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).