SANDAG conducts research to assist policymakers and criminal justice officials as they assess programs related to drug abuse prevention, intervention, enforcement, and treatment. 

Current Drug-Related Projects

Drug Policy Gap Analysis 

As part of a study funded by the San Diego/Imperial Counties High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), SANDAG is exploring the connection between drug use and crime. Preliminary evidence suggests that while recent public safety reforms have effectively reduced adult prison and jail populations, there are now more individuals who are not incarcerated but have substance abuse issues and/or mental health issues and who are financially and housing challenged. Through observational, descriptive, and spatial analyses, this study seeks to better understand who the Proposition (Prop.) 47 population is, the types of offenses they are committing, where Prop. 47-related crimes are concentrated throughout the region, and the possible impacts of these crimes regionally. 

For questions regarding this project, please contact Octavio Rodriguez Ferreira, SANDAG Principal Research Analyst, at 619.595.5342 or octavio.rodriguezferreira@sandag.org.

Prop 64 

In 2021, several cities in the San Diego region were among the 23 successful applicants to receive funding from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) which became available following the passage of Proposition 64 (Prop 64) which legalized marijuana for recreational use for individuals 21 years of age and older. 

Chula Vista Prop 64
With this funding, the Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) partnered with South Bay Community Services to provide cannabis education, prevention, and intervention to youth and the community. CVPD will also focus on efforts to ensure that marijuana is not being sold to minors. SANDAG serves as the evaluation partner.

La Mesa Prop 64
With this funding, the La Mesa Police Department (LMPD) partnered with Mending Matters to provide drug education and intervention programs to youth. In addition, the LMPD will inspect local businesses to ensure codes and regulations are being followed.  SANDAG serves as the evaluation partner.

San Diego Prop 64
With this funding, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) partnered with STAR/PAL to implement a middle school mentoring curriculum, expand high school programming to youth with juvenile justice system contact, and educate parents and other adults in the community regarding the risks of youth marijuana use. SANDAG serves as the evaluation partner and works with STAR/PAL to expand its assessment and data collection and to document project implementation.

Substance Abuse Monitoring Program

The Substance Abuse Monitoring (SAM) program identifies drug use trends among adult and juvenile offenders in an effort to develop appropriate strategies for drug abuse prevention. Biannually, SANDAG conducts interviews with a sample of adults and juveniles who have been arrested and booked into the San Diego County detention facilities. After a confidential interview about their drug use, SAM participants are asked to provide a voluntary and anonymous urine sample for drug analysis. Data from the SAM research are presented in a series of annual reports.

It is well known that the social, health, and financial consequences of drug abuse are significant. Examination of drug use trends over time can help practitioners and policymakers identify changes in population subgroups in terms of use, access, availability, and types of drugs that are used. It can also help with evaluation of the impact of drug prevention and control strategies and other issues affecting the drug abusing population. To target resources appropriately with respect to prevention, intervention, enforcement, treatment, and interdiction, the nature and scope of drug use must be carefully monitored.

This data collection effort was supported by the San Diego-Imperial High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Health and Human Services Agency, Behavioral Health Services, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Public Safety Group. This program was formerly known as the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program.

For questions regarding any of these projects, please contact Octavio Rodriguez Ferreira, SANDAG Principal research Analyst, at 619.595.5342 or octavio.rodriguezferreira@sandag.org.  

Past Drug-Related Projects

As the rates of diagnosed AIDS cases among White males decreased in San Diego County, the rates for Black and Hispanic females increased. Additionally, a high percentage of the region’s women and their unborn children are exposed to the HIV virus by injection drug use or through unprotected sexual intercourse. In an attempt to reduce this risk-related behavior, EYE Counseling and Crisis Services, in partnership with the Vista Community Clinic, received a grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The three-year funded project aimed to reduce the spread of substance abuse-related HIV and other infectious diseases in high-risk populations.

The program was implemented through a three-pronged approach that included outreach and peer education, the provision of medical services, and substance abuse treatment. To determine if the proposed research design was implemented as planned and what effect these efforts had, SANDAG conducted a process evaluation and an impact assessment.

The impact evaluation included an analysis of female clients who received substance abuse treatment and compared their drug use and risk behaviors at program entry and at the six- and twelve-month mark. Clients were eligible for this component of the research if (1a) they considered themselves to be an ethnic minority and (1b) if they had engaged in unprotected sex either in the previous six months or since their last HIV test, or (2) if they had injected drugs with needles in the prior six months or since their last HIV test. Specifically, SANDAG's efforts were directed at documenting the level of outreach and education that was accomplished and whether additional services were offered to and received by members of the target communities.

SANDAG evaluated a pilot project involving Vivitrol, a medication that inhibits individuals with substance abuse issues from experiencing the high from using alcohol or opiates.

Enhancing Treatment in a Drug Court Setting: An Evaluation of San Diego County's Pilot Vivitrol Project - CJ Bulletin July 2014

City of San Diego Pilot Clean Syringe Exchange Program: Final Evaluation Report