Bridget Freisthler

Bridget Freisthler

Professor, Department of Social Welfare, Faculty Affiliate California Center for Population Research


Ph.D. in Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley

Areas of Interest:

Availability and Accessibility of Social Services or Social Service Delivery, Availability of Alcohol and Drugs, Drugs/Controlled Substances, Environment, Foster Care, Geographic Information Systems, Race and Ethnicity, Spatial Analysis, Substance Use


(310) 206-1602


On Sabbatical Academic Year 2014-2015

Dr. Freisthler is an expert in incorporating cutting edge spatial analysis methods through Geographic Information Systems (GIS), spatial statistics, and spatial econometrics in 1) understanding how health and social problems vary across geographic areas, such as neighborhoods, 2) identifying those areas in a community which are at risk for developing or already experiencing high levels of harms  based on a growing understanding of neighborhood ecologies, and 3) examining how the location of services may further help or hinder the development of problems in neighborhood areas. She leads the Spatial Analysis Lab in the Department of Social Welfare ( ) and the Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Social Ecological Models Consortium. She is particularly interested in how the substance use environment (e.g., alcohol outlet and medical marijuana dispensaries) is related to a variety of harms, including crime and child maltreatment.  She also studies how service availability and accessibility may reduce these harms in local areas.

Dr. Freisthler directs a study of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and Sacramento to understand how regulations designed to reduce densities of cannabis dispensaries affects crime and use and to determine whether types of medical cannabis users cluster in dispensaries within communities, and whether clustering is increased in areas with many dispensaries, leading to increased problems.  This five year study is funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse grant R01-DA032715. More information can be found at

She is also the Component Director of an NIAAA-funded Center Grant “Maladaptive Parenting, Activity Spaces, and the Substance Use Environment ” The goal of this component is to understand how drinking locations and contexts, particularly related to the substance use environment, affects substance use and parenting behaviors. This study also builds upon our findings related to drinking locations to examine parents use of their local alcohol environments, including how social relationships may exacerbate or hinder drinking behaviors that are related to maladaptive parenting.

Dr. Freisthler has funding from the California Social Work Education Center for her project “Transforming Child Welfare Practice through Collaborative Research and Training” that is a collaboration of UCLA’s Department of Social Welfare and the Los Angeles County Torrance Regional Office The goal of this project is to use web-based technology to create a more streamlined process for determining which agencies have openings available to serve clients and matching client referrals with service providers in order to reduce length of stay for children in foster care and increase reunification rates.

She is also a current recipient of an NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Loan Repayment Program and has received support for her work from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation, and private donors.

Dr. Freisthler teaches advanced practice courses on Community Mapping and Grant Writing in the MSW program.



Using Bayesian space-time models to understand the substance use environment and risk for being referred to Child Protective Services
Freisthler, B. & Weiss, R.E. (2008). Substance Use & Misuse Special Issue, 43(2), 239-251.
An ecological assessment of the population and environmental correlates of childhood accident, assault and child abuse injuries
Freisthler, B., Gruenewald, P.J. Ring, L. & LaScala, E.A. (2008). Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(11), 1969-1975.
Alcohol outlet density, parental monitoring, and youth deviance: A multilevel analysis.
Freisthler, B., Byrnes, H., & Gruenewald, P.J. (2009). Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 325-330.

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Research Interests