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In 2021, with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Paterson Prevention Project was launched.Led by Dr. Ijeoma Opara, this project aims to reduce substance use, increase access to mental health services and improve mental health outcomes for Paterson youth. The project is a 5-year community-based study with a goal to use data to understand substance use patterns and mental health outcomes of Paterson youth.


The project plans to achieve this by conducting: 

• Focus groups and individual interviews with eligible Paterson youth between the ages of 13-21 years old; 

• Brief online and in-person surveys with Paterson youth; and 

• Periodic neighborhood assessments to understand the influence of neighborhood characteristics on mental health and substance use. 

Acknowledgments: This study is supported by the National Institutes of Health Director's Early Independence Award (DP5OD029636)

We are recruiting youth in Paterson to be a part of our focus groups!
You must live in Paterson and be between the ages of 13-21 years old. The focus groups are 60 mins long and mostly virtual but are able to do in person focus groups with selected community youth groups. After completing focus group, you will receive $25!
Sign up at: patersonprevention@yale.edu

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Andriana Herrera

Project Manager for P-CASA; Montclair


Jim Walsh

Chief Operating Officer/ Director of Community Outreach of Oasis


Tenee Joyner

Program Coordinator for MAPP; City of Paterson


Cristina Pagan Barnes Lee

Director of Paterson Youth Services Bureau


Stephanie Drag

Director of The Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources


Evelyn Pena

District Wide Community Outreach & Special Projects Coordinator Paterson Public Schools


Jada Fulmore

Director of NJ Reentry           


Gisele Gaulden

Director of Camp YDP

Dr. Robert J. Reid

Principal Investigator of P-CASA; Montclair  


Sharieff Ali Bugg

Executive Director of Growing in Grace Counseling Group


Fhameda Sultan

Linda Rodriguez

Ayden Ramos-Schneider

Ash MacCracken

Ivan Malave

Nasser Eid


We are avid believers that communities have the answer to the solutions and it is important for us to collaborate with them to achieve goals to improve health outcomes.  For this project, we use Community-Based Participatory Research methods.


What is Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)?


CBPR is partnership approach to research that equitably involves academic researchers, organizational representatives and members of the target community in all aspects of the research process. It enables all partners to contribute their expertise, with shared responsibility and ownership and it integrates the knowledge gained with action to improve the health and well-being of community members, such as through interventions and policy change. 

View these three examples of how researchers can work together with communities to make sustainable changes for youth.



Addressing diesel bus pollution and its health consequences in Northern Manhattan, New York: West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc., and the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health

  • Aim: Conversion of New York City bus fleet to clean diesel

  • The WE ACT partnership undertook detailed GIS mapping that graphically portrayed the disproportionate burden of asthma hospitalizations in Northern Manhattan, as well as the location of bus depots and other emission sources in relation to the public schools, hospitals, and other key sites. The signature aspect of the partnership’s research, though, involved training high-school-aged youth to participate in investigations of exposure rates to fine particulate matter commonly found in vehicle exhaust.

  • Outcome: Establishment by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of permanent air monitoring in Harlem and other “hot spots”
    locally and nationally

Reintegrating Drug Users Leaving Jail and Prison: Harlem Community and Academic Partnership

  • Aim: reframe the issue of those who were in prison or jail reenter the community into a public health light and focused on changing harmful policies and developing programs to support successful reintegration and prevent re-incarceration

  • Research Methods: conducted a review of the literature and media coverage and undertook secondary analysis of public data on substance use and incarceration.

    • Conducted focus groups with 36 substance users and former inmates and a survey of 79 substance abuse service providers. This research revealed key policies and relea

  • Outcome: Passage of a bill by the New York State Legislature that reinstated Medicaid benefits to inmates upon their release, replacing a policy that terminated benefits upon incarceration

    • Passage by the New York City Council of Local Law 54 mandating the Department of Correction to provide expanded discharge planning services to people leaving jail

    • Department of Correction decided to begin releasing many more inmates during daylight hours rather than after midnight and offering people leaving jail “a bus ride to a drug treatment, housing, or employment program rather than release in a subway stop frequented by drug dealers, prostitutes, and a Dunkin’ Donuts outlet.


Improving school conditions by changing public policy in South Los Angeles: The Community Coalition Partnership

  • Research Methods: randomly sampled, door-to-door, neighborhood needs assessments; GIS mapping; and secondary data analysis

  • Outcome: Reopening by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) of repair and construction contracts granted by a $2.4 billion school bond (Proposition BB), resulting in redirection of $100 million in school bond monies from wealthier schools to those in South Los Angeles

    • Allocation of $153 million in new funds for additional schools in South Los Angeles and other inner-city communities.

  • Noted: “Campaign to Rebuild South Central LA without Liquor Stores,” which in turn was credited with preventing the rebuilding of 150 alcohol outlets and helping spur the conversion of 44 liquor outlets to community-friendly businesses such as laundromats.


Addressing food insecurity in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point: The Literacy for Environmental Justice Partnership

  • Research Findings: Developed and conducted an initial community survey of 130 residents, asking about their needs and desires
    in relation to local markets, health and nutrition behaviors and habits, and what it would take to get them to shop locally instead of
    outside the community.

    • Used store-shelf diagramming to determine how much space in local stores was devoted to processed foods and to tobacco, liquor, and other products.

    • Conducted in-depth interviews with merchants at five local stores and utilized GIS mapping to display the location of corner stores, supermarkets, transportation routes, and relevant community demographics

  • Outcome: Adoption by several city agencies of a voluntary policy creating the Good Neighbor Program to provide incentives for corner stores that increase access to healthy foods and decrease shelf space for alcohol and tobacco products (four stores had become “good neighbors” by 2007, with five more slated to do so in 2008–09)

    • Passage and signing of AB 2384 in 2006, modeled on the Good Neighbor Program (albeit without funding appropriation), to establish a statewide Healthy Food Purchase pilot program to improve the supply of healthy choices in small corner stores.