Social Solutions International
Susanna Nemes, Ph.D., President of Social Solutions International, has more than 18 years of experience in substance abuse treatment and prevention with populations that have special needs, including women, LGBT and ethnic minorities. She has worked with these groups both as clinician and as researcher. Currently, Dr. Nemes is principal Investigator (PI) of projects related to Latina womens health and wellness; evaluation of the sexual assault program for the U.S. Air Force; and the intersection between HIV and domestic violence. Prior to this, Dr. Nemes was an associate professor at University of Maryland, where she directed the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) Mental Health Research Center. Through the PAHO center, she was Co-PI of a study examining violence against Latinas in the U.S. and in 15 Latin American countries. Previously, Dr. Nemes was the vice president of drug and alcohol research at Danya International where she served as PI and Co-PI on several NIH projects related to substance abuse and public health. She served as PI or Co-PI for projects related to smoking, substance abuse and co-morbidity, STD prevention, HIV screening and parent/child communication about sexuality. She has also served as PI for an international evaluation of drug treatment and prevention programs in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Nemes also served as evaluation consultant for a national family drug court initiative. She has published peer-reviewed work related to substance abuse and research methodologies as well as educational materials, websites and online courses. She has successfully completed several outcome studies tracking homeless and other substance abusers and obtaining very high follow-up rates. Dr. Nemes obtained her B.A. from Harvard and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Temple University. She is bilingual and bicultural, as she was raised in Puerto Rico.
Off the Streets helps women involved in sex work move toward safety, recovery, empowerment and community reintegration. It blends peer support with existing housing, substance abuse treatment, employment training, primary care and mental health services. This public/private partnership operates at the intersection of the criminal justice system with healthcare, substance abuse treatment and community development.
The proposed evaluation will include both a process and outcome evaluation and will answer the following research questions:
What are the objectives of the program?;
Does the program meet its objectives;
How is the program experienced by its stakeholders?;
What are the strengths and limitations of the program?;
How are the clients served by the program?;
What are the client demographic characteristics?; and,
What changes can be measured in clients who participate in the program?
The goals of the evaluation are to determine if the services being offered by the Off the Streets program could be improved and to determine which ones are working effectively. In addition, the outcome evaluation will focus on examining the effectiveness of the program. The Off the Streets program logic model is designed to facilitate discussions between key stakeholders and evaluation staff to specify program goals, objectives, activities, outputs and outcomes. Additionally, it is hoped that the final logic model will help clarify the causal assumptions and/or rationale on which the program is based, as well identify gaps in program goals and measurement. Data collection will be conducted through interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders, program staff and clients who participate in the program. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected.
The proposed evaluation will help move forward the RWJF mission of improving the health of and health care for all Americans. The lives of these women are often characterized by abuse of many types, violence by family, partners and others, extreme poverty, substance abuse and related legal problems (for women engaging in sex work) and social and mental health issues — all areas where their lives could be dramatically improved and are concerns of the RWJF.
My New Connections Experience
The New Connections: Increasing Diversity of RWJF programming, senior consultant program, provides a unique opportunity for underrepresented evaluators to become involved with important RWJF programming areas such as the vulnerable populations programs. The design of the program allows senior evaluators to propose evaluation designs for various RWJF programs, particularly ones for which they may have relevant evaluation experience. I found this to be a great opportunity to share my experiences with a vulnerable populations program, in this case, the Off the Streets program. This program provides services to women involved in sex work, which is a group of much interest to me. My primary area of research interest is women and the issues they encounter in their lives, primarily in public health and mental health areas. I have found that women involved in sex work often have had some high levels of negative and traumatic experiences. This group is very resilient and strong and we have much to learn from their experiences.
One of the main reasons I applied for this grant is because I am eager to participate in RWJF activities related to this program where we will share our work with our peer senior consultants and learn from one another. The RWJ funding will also allow me to further sharpen my evaluation skills while assisting the Off the Streets program strengthen its program for sex workers. The New Connections funding will also allow me to attend RWJ meetings where the senior consultants will share their experiences and findings and to also attend a national conference to disseminate the findings of this evaluation study. With the funding for this evaluation, I will also be able to prepare a white paper and journal submission to further bring attention to the important issue of improving the lives of sex workers.
Women and Gender Issues; Substance Abuse; HIV/AIDS; Public Health and Mental Health; Violence
- New Connections Status: Mid-Career Consultant
- Award Year: 2009
- RWJF Team/Portfolio: Vulnerable Populations
- Project Name: Evaluation of Off the Streets Project