Karen Johnson, PhD, MSW

Dr. Karen Andrene Johnson research interests focus on improving the lives of sheltered and undomiciled homeless women in New York and other urban settings. Specifically, she is interested in examining how co-morbid risks, such as justice involvement, sexual risk behaviors, mental health and substance abuse, combine synergistically to contribute to homelessness among impoverished women. She is also interested in adapting interventions proven efficacious in “real world” practice settings specifically for this population to reduce initial and recurring homelessness and increase quality of life. Under the mentorship of Drs. Nabila El-Bassel and Milton Wainberg, Dr. Johnson is currently exploring cumulative risk factors that propel vulnerable and stigmatized women into homelessness. These include, but are not limited to justice involvement, depression and other mental health disorders, substance use, and sexual risk behaviors.
Dr. Johnson has served as an Associate Research Scientist and a co-investigator for a RO1 National Institute of Drug Abuse study with the primary aim of reducing sexual risk behavior among justice-involved women (N=420), 50% of whom had a history of homelessness prior to the start of the study. She currently serves as a co-investigator for a multi-site study (with Yale University and the University of Rochester) funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (N=200). The primary aim of this study is to reduce sexual risk behavior among women recently released from jails and prisons. Dr. Johnson is also an Office of Mental Health Policy Scholar and is in the process of implementing a qualitative study with formerly homeless women (N=30) and practitioners (N=10) in criminal justice, clinic and shelter settings.
Dr. Johnson obtained her PhD in Social Work Administration from Columbia University.

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