Researchers in the Center for Community Research (CCR) credit the ease, flexibility and administrative control of REDCap, the web-based survey and data collection tool designed specifically for longitudinal survey research, with helping to jump-start their unique new study on what keeps residents in – or out of – residential recovery homes and recovery itself.
The study entitled “Emergent Social Environments as Predictors of Recovery Resident Outcomes” is collecting data to see how recovery-related attitudes, behaviors and social relationships influence the continued sobriety of initially about 250 and potentially up to 1,000 residents of 42 Oxford Houses in North Carolina, Texas and Oregon. A nationwide system of Oxford Houses offers peer-run, gender-segregated, transitional, group living to residents with a history of substance use.
Residents, including both those who drop out and their replacements, will be interviewed every four months over the course of the two-year study that is funded by a $2.96 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. Data measuring their relationships of trust, friendship and mentoring will be among the crucial information collected and analyzed. The first wave of face-to-face interviews is currently underway.
“This is a unique NIH research project in that it’s an observational design,” said Project Director Ed Stevens. There are no control groups, no randomizing, no intervening. “It’s simply an attempt to understand the development, structure and nature of social networks within an Oxford House and how these mechanisms may predict outcomes,” he said.
Ed considers REDCap technology “very instrumental to timely development” of this project. “From our perspective, REDCap provided a superior combination of longitudinal tools, audit tools, access capabilities and ease of use.” He recommends it to any researcher looking for a cross-sectional tool for a longitudinal study.
“REDCap makes it very easy to guide people through the survey,” said project Research Assistant Zachary Siegel. “With the click of a button,” Zach demonstrated how data can be imported. It can be exported with equal ease straight from Excel to advanced statistical programs including SPSS, SAS, Stata and R. The platform offers both user flexibility and administrative control. Different types of privileges can be assigned to manage design, data entry, time limits and changes, all supported by a strong auditing tool that enhances data quality, data integrity and accountability. It can accommodate many types of questions and instruments, and allows structures to be revised as projects evolve. Ed thinks it may even help with the research design. And if CCR’s experience reads like REDCap promotional literature, Ed points out that it was NIH that funded its development more than a decade ago.
The data being collected for this project reflects an expansive view of recovery, one that attempts to capture “the vast complexity of people’s lives,” Zach explained. “We’re interested in the everyday quality of life. What is it about the setting that keeps people in long enough? We’re really interested in what is it about these homes that help people.” Adds Zach, “We’re just trying to make sense of chaos.”
Co-Investigator John Light, a mathematical sociologist from the Oregon Research Institute, will be analyzing the network dynamics, using the statistical program RSiena. “The social network plays an important role in individuals’ transformation,” Ed said. “There’s a lot going on. Oxford House people get this.” He expects the study to yield data of sufficient size and scope to support decades of further research and analysis that it is hoped will suggest strategies for successful recovery within both home facilities and the population they serve.
In fact Oxford House has been the subject of more than 20 years’ research at DePaul under Lenny Jason, Principal Investigator on this study and Director of the CCR. One recently published CCR study found that residents who formed even just one relationship within their Oxford House substantially increased their likelihood of continued sobriety and general well-being. Another, randomized, CCR study found that residents who stayed at least six months stayed sober for two years. Yet, a quarter of Oxford House residents leave within three months; half drop out within six months.
“We basically think that Oxford House works for many people (and last year more than 25,000 residents participated in this system), but it doesn’t work for everyone,” Lenny said. “We want to better understand why it works for some individuals and not for others.”
To learn more about REDCap or set up an account, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at the SSRC.