Placement: Stanford University
Mentor: Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., Esther Ting Memorial Professor, Stanford Health Policy Associate, Stanford School of Medicine
Project: Drug-Related Deaths in the U.S. and the U.K.: An International Comparison Examining Differences Between Individuals Who Are Housed and Those Experiencing Homelessness
Emmert Roberts, M.A., M.Sc., BMBCh, Ph.D., MRCP, MRCPsych, is a 2022–23 U.K. Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. He is a clinical research fellow at the National Addiction Centre, King’s College London (KCL) and a practicing addiction psychiatrist at the South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Roberts is a member of both the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Psychiatrists, and an honorary analyst at the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities within the U.K. government Department of Health and Social Care. His research focuses on drug and alcohol service provision for marginalized populations and its relationship with overdose related mortality. He holds current research grants from the Medical Research Council and the National Institute of Health Research. Roberts graduated with distinctions in medicine from the University of Oxford and epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and holds a Ph.D. in addiction sciences from KCL.
Project Overview: In 2020 both the United States and the United Kingdom reported their highest number of drug-related deaths since recording began. Research from both countries has consistently demonstrated disproportionate drug-related harms among specific vulnerable and marginalized groups, particularly individuals experiencing homelessness.
Within the population of people who have died from drug-related causes in the U.S. and the U.K., this project aims to compare any observable differences in the drug use profile and sociodemographic characteristics between individuals who were housed and those who were experiencing homelessness at the time of their death. The project will utilize 10 years of coronial and medical examiner records from both countries to determine any similarities or trends in drug-related deaths through exploration of post-mortem toxicology results.
Any differential patterns observed among individuals experiencing homelessness or between the two countries could assist in understanding future trajectories of drug-related harm within this population and aid in targeting preventative interventions towards drug use profiles associated with high mortality rates. Individuals experiencing homelessness often face significant barriers to accessing appropriate mental and behavioral health supports, so understanding how the harms associated with drug use are differentially experienced within this population may help reduce health inequities and prevent drug-related deaths among this highly vulnerable group.