OPTIC Staff

Bradley D. Stein, M.D., Ph.D.

Center Director

Bradley D. Stein, Center Director, is a practicing physician and senior physician policy researcher at RAND. Over the last decade, Stein has served as principal investigator for numerous federally and privately funded studies related to the opioid crisis. He has published multiple peer-reviewed articles related to the opioid crisis in top-tier journals, including studies of opioid use disorder treatment, opioid analgesic prescribing, effects of state and federal policies, and equity in access and treatment of opioid use disorder. He actively shares his findings with federal and state policymakers. As OPTIC’s director, he fosters synergies across all of the Center’s activities; oversees OPTIC’s activities to support junior investigators; ensures that all of the OPTIC team are aware of changes in the rapidly evolving opioid policy landscape and emerging research focused on those policies; and spearheads wide dissemination of OPTIC findings, tools, and methods to the opioid policy research community, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, Ph.D.

Center Co-Director; Data and Methods Core Principal Investigator

Rosalie Pacula holds the Elizabeth Garrett Chair in Health Policy, Economics & Law and is a professor of Health Policy and Management at the Sol Price School of Public Policy and Faculty within the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California. Pacula’s research focuses on the supply and demand for alcohol, marijuana, opioid and other addictive substances. She has developed techniques for measuring the size of these markets; identified factors influencing their supply and demand; and evaluated the effectiveness of policy interventions targeting suppliers, users, harms from use/supply, and the delivery of effective treatment services. She led OPTIC's effort to create data visualization tools accurately describing policy timelines for curated policy variables, developing new ways of presenting the policy data in visually instructive and appealing ways. She has also worked to build a publicly available opioid policy database that identifies effective elements of state policies that reduce opioid related harm; expansions of the database are ongoing. The state policy data generated through OPTIC have served as a resource to researchers nationwide.

Beth Ann Griffin

Beth Ann Griffin, Ph.D.

Center Co-Director; Project Principal Investigator – Optimal Methods for Estimating Policy Effect Heterogeneity in Opioid Policy Research

Beth Ann Griffin is a senior statistician at RAND and a founding Co-Director of the RAND Center for Causal Inference, which promotes dissemination of advanced causal modeling techniques to researchers around the globe. Griffin has published extensively on methodological developments for drawing more robust inferences using observational data and substantive findings regarding substance use treatments. She has been actively involved in developing numerous short courses on causal inference methods as well as creating user-friendly tools that provide guidance on optimal ways to estimate the causal effects of state-level policy, including in the presence of co-occurring policies. The statistical methods and resources generated by her work are advancing the field by facilitating high-quality evaluations of complex policy interventions.

courtney kase

Courtney Kase, MPH

Center Manager

Courtney Ann Kase is a policy analyst at RAND and manager of the Opioid Policy Tools and Information Center. She has experience in qualitative research, project management, and program evaluation. She co-leads qualitative data collection and analysis on projects covering community health, behavioral health, and health care access and quality topics, and works in tandem with principal investigators to manage complex projects. She provides research support to ensure availability and widespread dissemination of OPTIC tools and methods to the opioid policy research community. She also meets regularly with OPTIC's advisors from the National Governors Association and the National Council of State Legislators to ensure that OPTIC's communication and dissemination activities remain responsive to policymakers and the policy environment.

Rosanna Smart, Ph.D.

Project Principal Investigator – A Framework for Understanding Mechanisms of Policy Change: The Opioid Policy Taxonomy

Rosanna Smart is a senior economist at RAND and Co-Director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, with expertise in econometric analysis related to substance use. She has examined multiple topics related to substance use and associated health consequences, marijuana and opioid policy changes, gun policy, and the economics of crime. Her research combines theoretical models of behavioral responses to regulatory changes with rigorous empirical methods to understand both the intended and unintended consequences of policy changes on substance use and other health outcomes. Of special value to OPTIC is Smart's understanding of how policy design and implementation shape substance use behavior while accounting for the broader regulatory, economic, and cultural context in which policy changes occur.

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Evan Peet, Ph.D.

Project Principal Investigator – Measuring the Longer-Term Social Burdens of the Opioid Crisis on Local Communities

Evan Peet is an economist at RAND, a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and the co-director of the RAND Center for Causal Inference. His research focuses on health and health policy. Currently, Dr. Peet is focusing on substance use disorders and maternal and child health, seeking to understand the impacts and unintended consequences of policies, as well as the optimal design, targeting, and implementation of policies. Within substance abuse, he is leading studies of prescriber substitutionary responses to state opioid policies, and the indirect/downstream consequences of the opioid crisis. Dr. Peet is an expert in causal inference, econometrics, machine learning, and predictive modeling.

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David Powell, Ph.D.

Project Co-Investigator – Measuring the Longer-Term Social Burdens of the Opioid Crisis on Local Communities; Data and Methods Core Co-Investigator

David Powell is a senior economist at RAND. Much of his recent work focuses on the broader impacts of the opioid crisis, especially regarding markets, labor supply, and social insurance. He has examined the origins of the opioid crisis and the driving forces behind its transitions, showing that the transition of the crisis to the second and third waves had substantial impacts on employment and disability insurance rates. In other research focused on policies that impact opioid-related overdoses, he has paid particular attention to the potential for unintended consequences on opioid use. He has also examined how large prescription drug coverage expansions, naloxone access laws, Good Samaritan laws, medical marijuana laws, and the introduction of abuse-deterrent prescription opioids affect opioid-related outcomes.

Mary Vaiana, Ph.D.

Center Communications Analyst

Mary Vaiana is a senior research communications analyst at RAND and leads the Center's communication and dissemination efforts. Vaiana is founder of RAND's Research Communications Group, a team of communications professionals with special expertise in transforming technical findings into accessible documents, web material, and presentations. She created and taught RAND's initial Policy Workshops, which served as the model for OPTIC workshops. She supports the Center's mission in multiple ways—structuring, reviewing, and revising manuscripts and presentations; improving usability of the Center’s public goods; and authoring a series of Key Takeaways that meet the needs of policy audiences.

Megan Schuler, Ph.D.

Project Co-Investigator – Optimal Methods for Estimating Policy Effect Heterogeneity in Opioid Policy Research

Megan Schuler is an policy researcher at RAND. An applied statistician, she focuses her research on statistical methodology as well as health and health services inequities, particularly relating to substance use and mental health. A central theme of her research is heterogeneity in substance use and mental health behaviors, disorders, and treatment. Her work has characterized variation in use of behavioral health services and examined how associations between substance use and risk factors vary dynamically across age. Methodologically, her research focuses on estimation of causal effects in the analysis of observational health data. Schuler's expertise as an applied statistician with a strong background in substance use and mental health is a valuable component of OPTIC's efforts to foster innovative research in opioid policy science.

Seema (Choksy) Pessar, photo courtesy of Tracy Boulian and David Ahntholz

Seema (Choksy) Pessar, M.P.P.

Data and Methods Core Co-Investigator

Seema (Choksy) Pessa is a senior health policy project associate in the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California. Throughout her career, she has conducted primary and secondary data collection efforts, analyzed policy effects, and translated policy research for policymakers and the public. For OPTIC, she supervised development of a county-level analytic database for use in evaluating policy effects, and led analyses based on different epidemiological databases to examine geographic differences in opioid related harm. The information she assembled on state emergency responses during COVID-19 was a valuable addition to OPTIC’s ongoing assessments of how the pandemic affected access to treatment for opioid use disorder.

Elizabeth Stuart

Elizabeth Stuart, Ph.D.

Project Co-Investigator – Optimal Methods for Estimating Policy Effect Heterogeneity in Opioid Policy Research

Elizabeth Stuart is Bloomberg Professor of American Health in the Department of Mental Health and chair of the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Stuart's research focuses on developing statistical methods for estimating causal effects and applying the methods to mental health, substance use, education, and public policy. Her methodological work has examined use of propensity score methods to estimate causal effects in non-experimental studies, methods to assess and enhance the generalizability of randomized trial results to target populations, and policy evaluation methods. Of special value to OPTIC is her work to develop guidance for best practice in estimating state policy effects and to disseminate advanced statistical methods, through pedagogical articles, formal and informal teaching, and short courses.

Stephen W. Patrick

Stephen W. Patrick, M.D., M.P.H.

Project Co-Investigator – Measuring the Longer-Term Social Burdens of the Opioid Crisis on Local Communities

Stephen W. Patrick is incoming chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health; departing Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy; Executive Director of Firefly, a comprehensive treatment program for pregnant people with opioid use disorder and an attending neonatologist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. He is an adjunct physician policy researcher at RAND and a guest researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His NIH-funded work focuses on improving outcomes for pregnant people with opioid use disorder and their infants, and evaluating how state and federal policies affect their health outcomes. He has also examined how community resources and characteristics, including access to medical care and employment, may negatively or positively affect outcomes for families impacted by the opioid crisis. He has published extensively in leading scientific journals and testified about the impact of the opioid crisis on pregnant people and infants before committees in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Sean Grant, Ph.D.

Project Co-Investigator – A Framework for Understanding Mechanisms of Policy Change: The Opioid Policy Taxonomy

Sean Grant is an adjunct social and behavioral scientist at RAND, a research associate professor at the HEDCO Institute for Evidence-Based Practice at the University of Oregon, and an associate professor in social and behavioral sciences at Indiana University's Fairbanks School of Public Health. A methodologist, his specific expertise is applying social and behavioral research methods in projects aiming to create, organize, and synthesize scientific evidence for public health decisionmaking. He has concentrated his research in three areas: stakeholder engagement, evidence synthesis, and research transparency and reproducibility. He is the lead investigator for the ExpertLens Team, conducting mixed-method online expert panels; in collaboration with co-investigator Rosanna Smart, he has been using results from the panels to build out a taxonomic system for opioid policy.

Corey Davis, J.D., M.S.P.H.

Project Co-Investigator – A Framework for Understanding Mechanisms of Policy Change: The Opioid Policy Taxonomy; Data and Methods Core Co-Investigator

Corey Davis is Director of the Network for Public Health Law’s Harm Reduction Legal Project. Corey was previously a Senior Attorney at the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), where he helped to advance access to quality health care for low-income and underserved individuals. Before joining NHeLP Corey served as Employment Rights Attorney at Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, where he represented LGBT individuals before administrative commissions and in state and federal courts. Corey has served as chair of a county board of health, chair of the board of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, and vice-chair of the North Carolina Harm Public Health Foundation, among other positions.

Brendan Saloner

Brendan Saloner

Project Co-Investigator - Measuring the Presence of Opioid Markets in Local Communities and Their Impacts on Harm

Brendan Saloner is a Bloomberg Associate Professor of American Health in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a joint appointment in the Department of Mental Health. He co-leads the workgroup on addiction and overdose in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg American Health Initiative, where he has led work with states to develop opioid response plans. Saloner's research examines health care services for disadvantaged populations, with a focus on access to treatment for substance use disorders. Of special value to OPTIC is his expertise in applying national survey data and state administrative databases to measure illicit drug markets, and his understanding of measures of federal and state programs that address opioid-related risk factors.

Sarah Axeen, Ph.D.

Data and Methods Core Co-Investigator

Sarah Axeen is Director of Data and Analytics at the USC Schaeffer Center and an assistant professor of research in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Her research focuses on understanding drivers of and evaluating solutions to opioid use and abuse. She also examines the impact of state-level policies on mental and behavioral healthcare outcomes and has explored geographic variations in healthcare and the relationship between changes in commercial prices and spending and utilization in Medicare.

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Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Ph.D.

Project Co-Investigator – A Framework for Understanding Mechanisms of Policy Change: The Opioid Policy Taxonomy; Data and Methods Core Co-Investigator

Ricky N. Bluthenthal is the Associate Dean for Social Justice and Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and a professor in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences and the Institute for Prevention Research in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. His research has established the effectiveness of syringe exchange programs, tested novel interventions and strategies to reduce HIV risk and improve HIV testing among injection drug users and men who have sex with men, documented how community conditions contribute to health disparities, and examined health policy implementation. His current studies include an observational cohort study of how cannabis legalization impacts use patterns and health outcomes of cannabis and opioids among people who inject drugs and a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of a single session intervention to reduce injection initiation risk behaviors among established people who inject drugs.

Rachel Carmen Ceasar, Ph.D.

Project Co-Investigator – A Framework for Understanding Mechanisms of Policy Change: The Opioid Policy Taxonomy

Rachel Ceasar is an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Population and Public Health Sciences in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California; a qualitative research consultant with the Biostatistics Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) team at Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI). Rachel directs the USC Maternal Cannabis Lab where her team fosters person-driven evidence to counteract maternal health disparities surrounding substance use during pregnancy, particularly among BIPOC people.

Jevay Grooms, Ph.D.

Data and Methods Core Co-Investigator

Jevay Grooms is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Economics at Howard University. She is an applied microeconomist with research areas of interests that lie at the intersection of public economics, health economics, and studies of poverty and inequality. Her overall research agenda is to study the impediments to adequate health care delivery and health outcomes of underserved and vulnerable populations with the keen intent to understand how poverty and the legacy of wealth inequality have contributed to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.

Hannah Cooper, Sc.D.

Data and Methods Core Co-Investigator

Hannah Cooper holds the Rollins Chair of Substance Use Disorders at Emory University, is professor in the Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences at the Rollins School of Public Health, and directs Spark, a center focused on helping to end suffering from substance use disorders and related harms, like overdoses, hepatitis C, HIV, and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. Her research expertise includes studying the social determinants of health, with a particular focus on the social determinants of drug use, drug users’ health, and health disparities. She applies multilevel, geospatial, and qualitative methods to explore these topics.

Atheendar Venkataramani, M.D., Ph.D.

Project Co-Investigator – Measuring the Longer-Term Social Burdens of the Opioid Crisis on Local Communities

Atheendar Venkataramani is assistant professor in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine and a board-certified general internist at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center. He is also Director of the Opportunity for Health Lab. His research focuses on the life-course origins of health and socioeconomic inequality. His work examines: the effect of economic opportunities—and the policies that influence them—on health behaviors and outcomes; the effects of early life interventions on adult health and well-being, including the mechanisms underlying these links; and the role of social policies and structural factors in shaping population health.