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Bridget  Freisthler - The Ohio State University. Columbus, OH, US

Bridget Freisthler

Professor | College of Social Work | The Ohio State University


Expert in health and social problems based on neighborhood ecologies.



Dr. Freisthler’s work focuses on 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 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 currently directs studies examining how the regulatory environment for medical marijuana is related to problems such as crime, marijuana use, and abuse/dependence, how drinking locations and contexts, particularly related to the substance use environment, affects substance use and parenting behaviors, such as child maltreatment, and how 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 leads the Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Social Ecological Models Consortium. She also studies how service availability and accessibility may reduce these harms in local areas.

Her work is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation, and private donors.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (6)

Child Abuse and Neglect

Drug and alcohol use (particularly marijuana, opiates, and alcohol)

Drug distribution systems


Spatial Analysis

Service availability

Education (4)

University of California, Berkeley: Ph.D. 2003

University of Chicago: AM 1998

Purdue University: B.A. 1996

Purdue University: B.S. 1996

Affiliations (4)

  • Research Society on Alcoholism
  • American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
  • Society for Social Work and Research
  • Society for Prevention Research

Media Appearances (3)

Study: Pot shops lead to more property crime in nearby neighborhoods

Dayton Daily News  online


Neighborhoods with nearby legal marijuana stores see more property crime each year than those without pot shops, according to new research from an Ohio State University social work professor who examined three years of data in Denver. “If you’re looking strictly from a public health standpoint, there is reason to be somewhat concerned about having a marijuana outlet near your home,” said Bridget Freisthler, lead author of a study published online Thursday in the Journal of Primary Prevention. There was no significant boost in violent crime as a result of marijuana sales, the study found.

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Is This Berkeley Neighborhood the Right Place for a Medical Marijuana Dispensary?

KQED News  online


The first time I met Ridgeway Smith was at a Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission meeting on Feb. 4. The bidding process to run Berkeley’s fourth medical marijuana dispensary was well on its way. The commission was meeting to make its final recommendation about who should get the license, and most members agreed: Even more than four were needed. As the Berkeley City Council prepares to vote Tuesday night on which of six applicants will get the license — or to postpone the vote in favor of approving an additional two licenses if an alternative proposal is adopted — Smith remains one of the few voices I’ve heard in opposition to a new medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley. But Bridget Freisthler, a social welfare professor at UCLA and the principal investigator on its medical marijuana research team, says it’s more than just stigma. Two of the team’s recent studies, conducted in Long Beach and Sacramento, showed a correlation between dispensaries and both property crime and violent crime. “What we’re finding is that medical marijuana dispensaries are related to crime in adjacent areas,” says Freisthler, “So it almost has sort of a doughnut shape, with the hole in the middle being where the dispensaries are located, and sort of around it is where you see higher levels of crime.”

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How Colleges Are Preparing Students for a Country Where Pot Is Legal

The Atlantic  online


Many of the dispensaries stayed open, leading to a debate about their effect on communities. Bridget Freisthler, an associate professor at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, had examined the effect of liquor stores on neighborhoods and thought a similar approach could be taken to dispensaries. In late 2011, Freisthler was approved by the National Institute on Drug Abuse for five years’ worth of research into the impact of dispensaries on their communities.

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Recent Research (2)

Legal marijuana stores lead to increases in property crime

The Ohio State University


Legal marijuana shops are linked to higher levels of property crime in nearby areas, according to a nearly three-year study in Denver. Researchers found that crime isn’t higher in the area immediately surrounding marijuana outlets. But adjacent areas saw about 84 more property crimes per year than neighborhoods without a nearby marijuana store. In Denver, no significant increase in violent crime was seen as a result of marijuana sales. The results show that legal marijuana sales come with a cost, said Bridget Freisthler, lead author of the study and professor of social work at The Ohio State University.

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Dr. Katie Maguire Jack: Addressing A Gap In The Research On Neighborhoods And Child Maltreatment

The Ohio State University


Working with Dr. Bridget Freisthler of UCLA, Maguire Jack will undertake a pilot survey in Shelby County, on the western edge of the state. Of particular interest is whether the availability of social services and the interaction of neighbors provide any protective effect against child maltreatment. In earlier studies, conducted in urban areas of California and Ohio, Maguire Jack found evidence that suggests they do.

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