Alcohol and illicit drug use has significantly higher negative consequences for individuals residing in marginalized communities (e.g., higher incarceration and HIV/HCV infection rates). Thus developing effective interventions to combat substance use and its related health inequalities in these communities is critical.

In previous work, we developed and pilot tested Community Wise, a manualized, multi-level, community-based, intervention to reduce substance use frequency among individuals with histories of incarceration and substance use disorders (click here for details). Recently, we obtained funding from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to optimize Community Wise. That means that we will be working closely with our community partners to develop the most efficient and sustainable version of Community Wise that can be delivered under $250 per person.

What is Community Wise Optimization Project?

In order to accomplish our goal, we will conduct a randomized controlled trial where we will randomly assign 528 men with histories of substance use disorders and incarceration into 16 experimental conditions. This means that we will create 16 different versions of the Community Wise intervention to find out which components or combination of components is most efficacious in reducing substance use frequency. Specifically, we will examine three components:

  • Critical Dialogue: Group meetings where participants reflect on the images above and engage in dialogue to develop a deeper understanding of how marginalizing processes (e.g., racism, sexism, classism) impact their lives and behavior;
  • Quality-of-Life-Wheel: An exercise designed to increase self-efficacy and help participants develop a vision for their future, breaking this vision down into small, feasible, measureable goals they can implement on a weekly basis (e.g. quitting smoking, improving relationships with family members, paying down debt);
  • Capacity Building Projects: Group projects designed and implemented by participants with support from the NCCB and other community members and organizations to address community problems (e.g., educating the community about health, community mobilizing, engaging in the political process, creating community services).

Any component that do not contribute to reduced alcohol and illicit drug use will be eliminated from the intervention. We will also examine if using peer facilitators or licensed clinicians to deliver Community Wise has an impact on reducing alcohol and illicit drug use.


In order to meet our project goals, the NCCB will use a combination of community based participatory research (CBPR) principles and the Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST) – an innovative and rigorous framework that seeks to engineer behavioral interventions that are efficient, effective, and sustainable.

Want to know more?

You can download our Community Wise publications here.

Want to participate or help?

The project will take place in Newark, NJ. Recruitment will start in December of 2016. If you are interested in participating or have any questions, please e-mail the NCCB at