NAU faculty partners with local substance abuse treatment facility to assist families

Only 1 percent of substance abuse treatment facilities in the U.S. allow parents in treatment to keep custody of their children, despite research that proves successful recovery hinges on holding families together.

To address the issue in Flagstaff, Marca McCallie, a licensed therapist and a Northern Arizona University doctoral student in psychology, co-founded Sage Home residential treatment center in 2017 to assist people in recovery keep their families intact.

In 2018, McCallie collaborated with Rita Wright, assistant clinical professor in NAU’s Department of Social Work, and Emery Eaves, assistant professor in the Northern Arizona University Department of Anthropology, to apply for the Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative’s (SHERC) Community-Campus Partnership Support (CCPS).

They used the funding to attend a conference together to develop their partnership. According to the collaborators, the opportunity was pivotal to their future success.

“We ended up with a nice interdisciplinary partnership and it worked out well,” McCallie said. “It’s been massively helpful because we qualified for a big addiction grant that would fund this effort. This NAU CCPS grant was a big reason for that success.”

Sage Home was one of the first of 12 programs that have received funding from CCPS for their project titled “Partnership for Maternal and Infant Health Equity in Substance Abuse Recovery Treatment.”

Wright said the three have a common goal of producing better outcomes for parents in substance abuse recovery and their families in three areas: the treatment of addiction, the medical field and the child welfare system, which are typically siloed and all working toward different outcomes. Wright said this can be is detrimental to the family system.

“It’s really fortunate that we happened to have three people with expertise in those three different systems who can hopefully really effect change on a bigger scale,” Wright said.

The three recently discussed their successful partnership in the latest episode of “Fairness First,” a SHERC podcast dedicated to exploring health equity matters in the local community.

“Sage Home’s collaboration with NAU is important because they are leading the way in addressing a startling lack of maternal substance abuse support services in this region that keep moms and babies together during treatment and recovery,” said Carmenlita Chief, senior program with the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER). “Their work holds huge promise to strengthen community health by reducing the number of children being placed in out-of-home care and improving maternal addiction treatment outcomes.”

The podcast, which debuted on Oct. 24, is a project of the Community Engagement Core (CEC) of SHERC, a grant initiative sponsored by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Podcast co-hosts Alexandra Samarron, a senior program coordinator at CHER, and Chief examine the successful partnership of McCallie, Eaves and Wright and the CCPS program, which strives to support partnership among community practitioners and leaders and university investigators.

Samarron said that community-campus partnerships—where researchers work collaboratively with community groups to find creative solutions that work toward fair and responsive health approaches—and co-learning are an important health equity topic for the hosts to explore. She said they consider their podcast a “powerful teaching tool for health equity issues” for listeners who have a variety of experience on the topic.

In addition to McCallie, Eaves and Wright, the hosts interviewed Nicolette Teufel-Shone, associate director of CHER and a professor in the Department of Health Sciences, who said the most important component of a community-campus partnership was establishing a reliable and strong foundation that continues beyond the project.

“What we do know about effective health equity efforts and research is that most of them are grounded in really solid, trusted relationships, and we also know that it’s often times difficult for community and university partnerships to initiate the relationship in a trusted process that allows them the time to get to know each other,” Teufel-Shone said.

Samarron said she and Chief are interested in exploring how researchers create and conduct research that is responsive to the needs of communities impacted by health inequity and showing the audience that researchers have a role and an impact in fostering health equity.

In addition to Fairness First, the CEC group has also developed a video series and a webinar that highlights several SHERC health equity programs with partnerships in the community.

To listen to the podcast, visit the SHERC website or download it on iTunes or PodBean.