Since 2014, REACH researchers have been working on ground-breaking investigations into rural injection drug use in Puerto Rico. With the lab’s community partners, El Punto en la Montaña, REACH’s findings regarding people who use injection drugs (PWID) in rural Puerto Rico and their risk behaviors, social networks, and the specific sociocultural contexts in which they live has helped create more intelligent, practical substance abuse prevention and treatment. Since joining the REACH lab as a graduate student, Post Doctoral researcher Patrick Habecker has played an integral role in ensuring the success of the lab’s projects in Puerto Rico from writing papers, overseeing team meetings, developing papers, and keeping the team motivated and moving on the various projects involved in REACH’s Puerto Rico research.
After receiving his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2017, Dr. Habecker continued this vital work as a Post Doctoral researcher with REACH. Currently, Habecker is working on REACH’s most recent development in Puerto Rico by observing the effects of Hurricane Maria on PWID. Having developed an evidential understanding of PWID’s behaviors and risks over the past four years of REACH research in the territory’s rural communities, Habecker is interested in how Hurricane Maria has changed the environment, resources, and needs of PWID in the severely affected area.
“For the past four years, our research had the aim of teaching people not to share equipment, use clean needles, and practice other risk-reducing behaviors,” Habecker explains. “However, Hurricane Maria has uniquely affected this community as the clean equipment and resources we have promoted for years are now inaccessible to many. Because of the further socially destabilizing effects of natural disasters, the social networks of users have likely also changed, altering the risks and environments associated with PWID in rural Puerto Rico communities. Our current research in the post-Maria context of Puerto Rico will be used to uncover just how resilient these protective behaviors are under the extreme stress of a natural disaster or other life-changing event.”
When Dr. Habecker isn’t working on the Puerto Rico project and helping every moving piece of the puzzle work effectively, you can find him reading and thinking about the social problems that interest him most. Outside of his field of research and passion in social network analysis and methodology, Habecker is interested in contributing to the understanding of–among other things–suicide, rural life, and how debt acts as social control. REACH is fortunate for all that Dr. Habecker has contributed to the lab’s work through his curiosity, dedication, and innovation.