Public Release: 

UTSA researcher awarded $2.6 million grant to help women recovering from substance abuse

Grant will treat pregnant and postpartum women seeking recovery services in Houston

University of Texas at San Antonio

James H. Bray, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has received a five-year, $2.6 million grant to lead a project that will provide mental health services and recovery support to high-risk pregnant, postpartum women recovering from substance abuse.

The grant, from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will fund the program, called Pregnant and Mothers Postpartum Enhanced Recovery-Oriented Residential Services (PAMPERRS). PAMPERRS will supplement services at Houston's Santa Maria Hostel. Santa Maria Hostel is Texas' largest multi-site residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment center and one of very few facilities to provide a comprehensive continuum for pregnant and parenting women and their children.

Many of the women at Santa Maria Hostel have criminal backgrounds or have an active case with Child Protective Services. Several also have a history of substance abuse and experienced severe trauma from sexual abuse or domestic violence in their lifetimes.

"A lot of people with mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, use drugs because they are traumatized," said Bray. "This grant will allow us to treat underlying mental health conditions to ensure a more successful treatment for these women."

The grant, awarded to Bray, will enhance residential treatment programs by providing critical medical and mental health services to women and women with children at Santa Maria Hostel. More than 300 women and 360 children are expected to benefit from this program over the course of five years.

The goal of Dr. Bray's work is to serve high-risk pregnant and postpartum women who have limited access to quality health services.

In addition to both medical and mental health treatment funded through the grant, women at Santa Maria Hostel learn parenting skills, develop job readiness skills, get information about educational and employment opportunities and obtain permanent housing. Counseling sessions are held for these women and their families to connect and communicate, with a strong focus on getting the fathers of the children more involved.

"The goal is to get women the mental health services they need, address the trauma that led them to seek the substances they did and help them become better parents to their children along the way," said Bray.

Bray said UTSA graduate students will accompany him to Santa Maria Hostel and complete evaluations of the program. Bray is also collaborating with staff from the Baylor College of Medicine.

Bray joined the UTSA Department of Psychology in August 2017. His research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and focuses on adolescent substance use, divorce, remarriage and stepfamilies. He has published more than 200 articles in major journal and books and presented his work in 20 countries.

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