Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Focus Area

Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs & Mental Health

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PHI is building the evidence base for what works to reduce the rates of substance abuse and mental health issues, with nationally recognized epidemiological research and an eye on inequities across populations.

We also focus on substance abuse-related concerns such as physical injury, violence and mental health issues—and on improving interventions in primary care and treatment settings.
PHI examines the role of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status in drinking and drug use. We evaluate treatment readiness and access. And we work on tobacco addiction and policy approaches to reduce its spread.
Download PHI's Work in Alcohol, Tobacco, Other Drugs & Mental Health: Examples of Impact


Alcohol Research Group

Established in 1959, the Alcohol Research Group (ARG), a program of the Public Health Institute, conducts and disseminates research on the epidemiology of alcohol and other drug consumption and problems, alcohol health services research, and alcohol policies while also training future generations of researchers. ARG is also home to the National Alcohol Research Center.

Learn about Alcohol Research Group projects

Behavioral Health and Recovery Studies

Behavioral Health and Recovery Studies examines a variety of issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, mental health disorders, criminal justice systems, unstable housing, and HIV. The center primarily focuses on community-based fieldwork and conceptualizes recovery from a broad perspective that includes assessment of professional treatment, peer-based services, neighborhood effects, and social environment influences.

Learn about Behavioral Health and Recovery Studies projects

Berkeley Media Studies Group

Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) works with community groups, journalists and public health professionals to use the power of the media to advance healthy public policy. To do this, BMSG conducts research to understand how news, entertainment and advertising portray health and social issues. Through media advocacy training and consultation, BMSG helps advocates harness lessons from that research and develop the skills they need to become stronger voices in policy debate and illuminate the need for improving the places where all people live, learn, work and play.

Learn about Berkeley Media Studies Group projects


Bridge is establishing a culture of evidence-based medicine to treat substance use disorders through an accelerated training program for healthcare providers that supports, enhances, and increases access to 24/7 treatment in every community.

Learn about Bridge projects


CA4Health is a community of practice consisting of people and organizations working to advance chronic disease prevention and health equity in California. CA4Health is forging partnerships, creating opportunities for efforts to be leveraged, building capacity for leadership, providing opportunities and tools to advocate, and facilitating coordinated actions that will enhance, expand, and elevate the participants’ work and efforts statewide. We believe that increased collaboration, fostering non-traditional partnerships, and tackling tough challenges together will create impactful, lasting change in California.

Learn about CA4Health projects

California Adolescent Health Collaborative

The California Adolescent Health Collaborative (CAHC) is a public-private statewide coalition with the goal of increasing understanding and support for adolescent health and wellness in California. As a coalition of representatives from public and private agencies, CAHC is committed to a comprehensive, assets-based, multidisciplinary approach to improving the health and well-being of California youth.

Learn about California Adolescent Health Collaborative projects

California Health Interview Survey

The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation's largest state health survey, is a collaboration of PHI, the California Department of Public Health, the California Department of Health Care Services and the University of California at Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research. CHIS data are a critical tool in developing programs and policies to fight health threats such as obesity.

Learn about California Health Interview Survey projects

California Opioid Safety Network

California Opioid Safety Network (COSN) provides support including technical assistance, coaching and customized learning opportunities to Opioid Safety coalitions working throughout California on the following strategies: adopting safer prescribing practices, improving access to medical treatment, increasing naloxone distribution, and other innovative harm reduction strategies. Statewide learning communities will focus on both regional and topical issues.

Learn about California Opioid Safety Network projects

Center for Health Leadership and Practice

Today’s public health challenges are complex and rapidly evolving, and call for an innovative approach to leadership development. The mission of the Center for Health Leadership and Practice (CHLP) is to advance health by increasing leaders' capacity to transcend boundaries, work collaboratively and transform their communities. Through the use of blended learning modalities, CHLP leads programs for teams, coalitions, initiatives and professional networks to advance leadership skills and reduce health inequities.


Learn about Center for Health Leadership and Practice projects

Center for International Tobacco Control

In Asia, the two largest consumers of tobacco are China and Indonesia, together representing 412 million smokers. The Center for International Tobacco Control (CITC) was established in 2006 to conduct research studies and programs to address the tobacco problem in these two countries. CITC promotes effective tobacco tax policy and tobacco policy alternatives; works on tobacco farming issues and crop substitution; promotes public education around tobacco; promotes smoke-free environments; and trains local tobacco control researchers.

Learn about Center for International Tobacco Control projects

Child Health and Development Studies

Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) investigates how health and disease are passed on between generations--not only genetically, but also through social, personal and environmental surroundings. Nearly 50 years ago, CHDS enrolled over 15,000 families during the mothers' early pregnancy. Families participated in comprehensive interviews about their health, lifestyle and experiences. Follow-up studies CHDS children, now adults, and on their children, enable CHDS scientists to study health across generations and seek ways to prevent disease early in life.

Learn about Child Health and Development Studies projects

Getting it Right from the Start: Regulation of Recreational Marijuana

Legalization of recreational marijuana is spreading rapidly in the US, currently reaching 11 states and the District of Columbia. State licensing of retail marijuana outlets in California began January 1, 2018. Getting it Right from the Start was created to develop tools and provide assistance to states, local jurisdictions and community partners to protect their community against youth use and problem use and promote equity by adopting best practices from tobacco control and other fields, avoiding unfettered promotion by the rapidly burgeoning legal marijuana industry.

This project has:

  • Developed a model local ordinance for marijuana retailing and marketing and two for local taxation under California law, using decades of accumulated experience from tobacco and alcohol control.
  • Carried out research with stakeholders from other states who have legalized, local jurisdictions, academic marijuana, addiction and legal experts, taxation experts, marijuana businesses and community groups to identify best practices based on what we know and don’t know.
  • Developed legal analyses of relevant issues for local licensing, constraints on marketing and local taxation.
  • Created a listserv, webinars and other technical assistance tools to support communities and exchange experiences and questions.
  • Providing public health oriented input to regulatory processes in California and other states
  • Provided technical assistance to states, local government and community partners leading to improvements in many local laws, such as the first ban in the US on flavored cannabis products for inhalation or combustion in Contra Costa county.

Learn about Getting it Right from the Start: Regulation of Recreational Marijuana projects

Health Spectrum Program

Using a multi-dimensional emphasis that encompasses geographical, age, gender, socio-economic status, and race and ethnicity categories, the Health Spectrum Program provides issue and policy analysis and reporting; project/program and policy evaluation; training; technical assistance for statewide disease prevention and other health initiatives; and capacity building. The Health Spectrum Program focuses on children's health; health disparities; chronic disease prevention; wellness for leaders and decision-makers; and tobacco-free hospital campuses and patient treatment policies.

Learn about Health Spectrum Program projects

National Alcohol Research Center

The National Alcohol Research Center, which began in 1977, is housed within PHI's Alcohol Research Group and is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The Center's research focuses on the bio-psycho-social determinants of addictive processes involving alcohol and other drugs. The Center is directed by William C. Kerr, PhD, who provides scientific oversight while working with associate director Sarah E. Zemore, PhD, to assure coherence and scientific vision. 

Learn about National Alcohol Research Center projects

National Opioid Leadership Summit 2019

Opioid use disorder isn’t contained by the walls of a cell, hospital or treatment center—and our interventions can’t be either. On June 25, 2019, the Public Health Institute hosted U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and colleagues from across the country in Sacramento to learn about, share and collaborate on real solutions to the opioid crisis that bridge the criminal justice, health care and public health sectors. Funders, national leaders and local innovators from across the country gathered for a solution-driven summit meant that sparked  new ideas and new collaborations, all presented through TED-style talks, keynotes and interactive breakouts.

Keynote: VADM Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, Surgeon General of the United States

Learn about National Opioid Leadership Summit 2019 projects

Public Health Trust

The Public Health Trust (PHT) works with private attorneys, government agencies and public health organizations interested in using litigation settlement funds to improve public health. PHT manages settlement funds with a focus on transparency and accountability. PHT grantees address a wide range of public health issues from marketing of food, tobacco products, exposure to toxic substances, medication access, and air and water quality.

Learn about Public Health Trust projects

Additional PHI Projects