BC Centre of Substance Use researcher awarded CIHR Foundation Grant

published on August 8, 2017

Lindsey Richardson, Research Scientist at the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, has received a Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Foundation Award to investigate strategies to address the health impacts of poverty and socio-economic marginalization among people who use drugs.

The CIHR Foundation Grant program provides long-term support for the pursuit of innovative, high-impact programs of research. Dr. Richardson was awarded a five-year grant, one of 76 awards nationally and one of only 13 awarded to early career investigators.

Dr. Richardson’s past research has shown that socio-economic marginalization is a key driver of illicit drug use and drug-related harm, and affects if and how people who use drugs access a broad range of health and social services. Through this award, Dr. Richardson will further investigate how marginalization – including poverty, housing, or food insecurity and exclusion from the labour market – impacts drug use patterns, physical and mental well-being, and premature death. The ultimate goal of this work is to help develop evidence-based strategies to address these key social determinants of health and thereby reduce drug-related harms and improve access to care.

“In the midst of a national opioid and overdose crisis, interventions that address upstream determinants of drug use and health are urgently needed,” said Dr. Thomas Kerr, Associate Director and Director of Research at the BCCSU. “Dr. Richardson has a real opportunity to transform our approach to preventing the harms of illicit drug use.”

Dr. Richardson’s research will engage with local, provincial, and national networks of people who use drugs, community-based organizations, service providers, policy makers, and researchers to conduct observational research and develop evidence-based public health solutions to reduce drug use and drug-related harm linked to socio-economic marginalization.

“Attempts to address the harms of illicit drug use usually respond to immediate health outcomes rather than concentrating on the social determinants that lead to drug use and drug-related harm to begin with,” said Dr. Richardson. “While these responses are important, it is my hope that this research, conducted in collaboration with people who use drugs and those who deliver health and social services, will uncover new strategies to focus our efforts upstream and prevent those harms from occurring in the first place.”

Dr. Richardson holds a CIHR New Investigator award and is a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar. She has initiated the TASA Cheque Day Study, which is examining whether changing when and how often social assistance is disbursed will benefit individual health and safety and reduce health system costs, as well as nested qualitative research within the OPTIMA study, a forthcoming national multi-site randomized control trial through the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), among other research.

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About the BC Centre on Substance Use
The BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) is a provincially networked organization with a mandate to develop, help implement, and evaluate evidence-based approaches to substance use. Located at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver with researchers based at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, the BCCSU aims to build upon the success of its partner organization, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, by improving the integration of best practices and care across the continuum of responses to substance use through the collaborative development of policies, guidelines, and standards. With the support of the province of BC, BCCSU aims to transform substance use policies, programs, and services by translating research into education and care guidance, thereby serving and improving the health of all British Columbians.

For additional information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Kevin Hollett, BCCSU
[email protected]