The Statewide Ethnographic Assessment of Drug Use and Services (SEADS) Project was a statewide assessment conducted in every county in Maryland to characterize the experiences of people who use drugs (PWUD) and the potential for expansion of harm reduction services statewide. The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) funded two research teams—one at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and one at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU) — to do the following:

  • Characterize the experiences of people who use drugs at the County levels
  • Examine service gaps PWUD experience and barriers/facilitators to accessing services
  • Assess potential local and regional capacity for expansion of harm reduction programs

The study was conceptualized because there was less data available to inform response to the needs of PWUD outside of Baltimore City. The study was committed to building a statewide dataset that was primarily concerned with the perspectives and experiences of PWUD, community members, and front-line stakeholders that are critical to informing relevant, sustainable programming that best meets the needs of the communities in which they reside. 

SEADS aimed to understand drug use, related services, and opportunities for enhancement of the statewide harm reduction infrastructure from the perspective of PWUD and local stakeholders across Maryland at the regional level. In pursuit of this goal, rapid ethnographic assessment and in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with PWUD and a diverse group of stakeholders who were identified as knowledgeable about drug use in the region (n=602). Stakeholders included representatives from drug treatment facilities, housing programs, hospitals, court systems, police departments, fire stations, advocacy organizations, churches, and health departments, among other organizations, as well as community stakeholders who identified as being in recovery or formerly using, or other community members. This assessment specifically sought to:

1. Characterize drug use patterns and other factors contributing to risk of substance use-related mortality and morbidity at the local level

2. Characterize existing service capacity (related to drug use and harm reduction)

3. Identify service gaps and approaches to addressing them

4. Assess existing infrastructure related to harm reduction services and the potential capacity for the expansion of harm reduction services


Fulfillment of the SEADS’ aims align directly with the current Maryland Public Health Crisis Response Work Plan (CDC-RFA-TP18-1802). 

Community dissemination events took place in late 2019 and we continue to collaborate with both the Maryland Department of Health and County Health Departments in the process of using SEADS findings in harm reduction program planning across the state of Maryland.

Region 5 Reports (Andrea Lopez, PI) include Prince George's, Montgomery, Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary's Counties and are available here:…

The full statewide reports are available from MDH here:…

The UMD research team is:

Andrea M. López, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Department of Anthropology UMD

Marwa Al-Nassir, MPH, Project Director

Zena Dhatt, BSRecruitment Specialist and Coordinator (UMD Anthropology Alum)

Maggie Ambrose, BA, Interview Director

Cheryll Alipio, Ph.D., Data Analyst

Julieta Ferrera, BA, Latino Services Specialist (UMD PhD Student)

Shane Sullivan, BA, Interviewer

Alix Brooks, Research Assistant (UMD Anthropology Major)

Tajbik Sheikh, BS, Research Assistant (UMD Anthropology Alum)

Betselot Wondimu, BS, Research Assistant (UMD Anthropology Alum)

Principal Investigator
Project Sponsor
Maryland Department of Health, CDC Crisis Response Funds CDC-RFA-TP18-1802