Rachel Castaneda, Ph.D.

Professor: Rachel (Gonzales) Castaneda, MPH, PhD

Trained in Community Health Sciences from UCLA. Dr. Castaneda also holds an academic appointment at UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP) as an Associate Research Psychologist. Dr. Castaneda has a portfolio of work that focuses on the prevention, treatment and recovery of substance use disorders in adolescent and young adult populations through a vast array of projects funded by the National Institutes of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, California Department of Health and Human Services, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health/Mental Health, and Hilton Foundation. The majority of projects focus on system evaluation, intervention development, technology-based applications, qualitative and quantitative mixed research methodologies, efficacy and effectiveness trials, and longitudinal research. From this work, Dr. Castaneda has written several chapters and publications in peer reviewed journals and books as well as poster and oral presentations at professional meetings. Below is a list of current research projects that students can join.

Current Projects:

SAMHSA - Project Wellness: A Prevention Navigation Approach for Increasing Community Preparedness against Substance Misuse and HIV Risk Behaviors among Ethnic/Racial Minority Youth aged 13-24

Project Wellness is a five-year collaborative effort with a community-based organization. This grant will aim to improve access to substance use and HIV risk integrated services among racial/ethnic youth ages 13-24 using a peer navigator approach. As part of Project Wellness, the peer navigator will be instrumental in linking youth to services to addressing housing, substance use treatment, mental health and health needs. In addition, the peer navigator will link youth to a texting campaign focused on promoting healthy behaviors.

SAMHSA - Provider Clinical Support System-PCSS Training focused on MAT preparedness for Nurse Practitioner Students and Field Preceptor Community Health Sites to address Opioid Use Issues: Enhancing a Faith-Based SBIRT Practice Model.

As part of a three-year project, Dr. Castaneda is collaborating with the APU School of Nursing and co-director, Dr. Lynda Reed, to enhance the curriculum and training protocols for nurse practitioner (NP) students and field preceptors at community sites in the use of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders. NP students will be linked to a 24-hour Waiver Training, which satisfies the training requirement as described in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

External Evaluation of Real-World MAT Program Outcomes

This project aims to externally evaluate Groups Recover Together - a medical practice that provides outpatient treatment for patients with OUDs, using a best practice model that combines MOUD (buprenorphine), weekly group therapy, and a range of other clinical and social supports. Groups’ agencies treat more than 5,000 patients each week across 49 clinics in 7 U.S. states. The majority of clinics are located in rural communities that have been hardest hit by the opioid epidemic and have the least access to evidence-based care.

Los Angeles County Youth System Landscape and Design Planning

This project is funded by the California Community Foundation (CCF) and is a collaborative effort lead by UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (UCLA-ISAP) to generate a vision for a comprehensive youth substance use system of care in Los Angeles County. The APU evaluation team will focus on assisting UCLA-ISAP with conducting provider and stakeholder interviews to identify services, gaps and critical issues related to the planning and design of a comprehensive youth system of care.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention and Control Training Services

CIBHS contracted with Dr. Castaneda to provide training services to support and enhance workforce skill set among substance use treatment providers from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention and Control (SAPC) Youth System of Care. Training activities include: 1) developing new trainings for the youth system of care providers, designing prevention curriculum for at-risk youth, 3) designing and implementing online training modules in partnership with EPG Technologies.

Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Workforce Development Trainings

Given recent policy changes surrounding the use of cannabis in California, many service providers in the mental health field may be wondering how these changes will impact work with their youth clients. This training project seeks to increase service providers’ knowledge base on the latest research, trends, and evidence-based interventions to address cannabis substance use issues among the Transition Age Youth (TAY) population.

Los Angeles Housing Service Authority (LAHSA) SBIRT Training Project

This project is based on a contract with LAHSA to address substance use issues among homeless youth populations. The project focuses on providing SBIRT training to LAHSA providers who provide services to homeless youth within Los Angeles County. New project activities will focus on developing an implementation toolkit for LAHSA providers implementing SBIRT to help ensure sustainability of SBIRT practice.

Los Angeles County Transitional Aged Youth Workforce Development Training Project

This project is based on a contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Transitional Aged Youth-TAY Bureau. The project focuses on providing workforce development to DMH community mental health network providers as well as providers in the juvenile justice camps and halls on understanding how to identify and address substance use issues among TAY with co-occurring mental health and justice-related issues in Los Angeles County.

Community-Systems Integration Project focused on Adolescent Substance Use Prevention

Funded by Conrad Hilton Foundation, this is an evaluation project that aims to evaluate the integration of risk reduction efforts (via SBIRT) among community practice partnerships developed between Communities of Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and health care entities. The goal is for coalitions to work with health care entities to ensure SBIRT (a model for early intervention risk reduction/prevention) is implemented in the health care system to address substance use among adolescent patient populations.

Coalition Pilot Projects Include:

 Greater New Orleans Drug Demand Reduction Coalition (LA)

 Southwest Prevention Services (UT)

 Coastal Healthy Communities Coalitions (ME)

 Gwinnett Coalition (GA)

 South Dakota (SD) Coalition

Research and Evaluation Tasks for Projects:

  • Quantitative and Qualitative data entry and analysis of existing projects
  • Literature reviews to support existing projects
  • Research poster development, submission, and presentation at professional conferences
  • Manuscript development
  • Website development for project related sites
  • Material development for training related projects
  • Report development for evaluation related projects
  • Project administrative tasks

As part of this project, Dr. Castaneda’s team has engaged in the following activities:

1) Training website development


2) Coordinating/conducting in-person SBIRT trainings and managing online trainings for students in the fields of nursing, psychology, social work, athletic training, and pastoral care.

3) Providing technical assistance to community-based organizations, including the APU Community Counseling Center and APU Student Health Center

4) Data analyses to evaluate the training program

Contact Person:

Dr. Rachel Castaneda: rcastaneda@apu.edu

Additional Team Members:

Irene Valdovinos, LCSW, MPH; Janna Schirmer, MA; Ashley Horiuchi, BA; Miranda Murarik, MS

Time Commitment:

1 academic semester (9 hours/wk). Students interested can enroll in research practicum.