Faculty & Staff


Anna Abella, PhD

Anna Abella, PhD

Assistant Research Professor

Phone: 813-974-3739
Office: MHC 2413

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View 2024 Curriculum Vitae


Research Interests:


Mental health services; child welfare systems; parent education; prevention and early intervention services; jail diversion programs; behavioral health equity

Anna Davidson Abella, PhD, is an applied anthropologist and a Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Child & Family Studies in the College of Behavioral Community Sciences at USF. Dr. Abella has conducted numerous studies involving mental health services, child welfare systems, and early childhood education programs, investigating both family/consumer and professional experiences in implementing interventions or systems change initiatives. She is especially interested in investigating systemic and structural factors that serve as barriers to individual and family well-being and prevent effective system functioning.


Dr. Abella is currently a co-investigator on an Equity Evaluation of the Indiana Department of Health and Addition’s behavioral health services. Through this project, she has had the opportunity to work closely with state leaders, regional and grassroots providers, and service recipients to understand existing strengths and future opportunities for addressing behavioral health disparities across the state. She currently serves as co-Principal Investigator for an evaluation of a statewide initiative to improve pediatric primary care providers’ ability and capacity to identify and treat children with behavioral health care needs throughout Florida, as well as an evaluation of the effectiveness of in-home child welfare services for families with maltreatment allegations and substance use conditions. Dr. Abella has recently co-led a nationwide study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to assess school administrators’ experiences implementing violence prevention and mental health training programs through the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence program. She has also led several projects assessing the implementation and effectiveness of law enforcement and behavioral health collaborations to better respond to individuals in crisis and help them avoid unnecessary criminal justice system involvement. Dr. Abella has recently served as Principal Investigator of a study aimed at understanding challenges to engagement among Black families in early childhood education programs in Sulphur Springs, FL.

Dr. Abella provides graduate student advising for the Behavioral and Community Sciences Doctoral program and the Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health program at USF. She teaches the Program Development & Implementation in Children’s Mental Health course for the MSCABH program, as well as the Evaluation of Clinical Practice in Diverse Settings course for USF’s Master’s in Social Work program.

Dr. Abella is a member of the American Evaluation Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology. Her academic training in Applied Cultural Anthropology (PhD) and in Women’s and Gender Studies (MA) has informed her research methodologies to include engaged, critical, and participatory approaches.

Recent Publications

Abella, A.D., Landers, M., Ismajli, F. et al. (2022). Stakeholder Perspectives on Implementing a Police-Mental Health Collaborative to Improve Pathways to Treatment. J Behav Health Serv Res. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11414-021-09782-0

Callejas, L.M., Jayaram, L., & Abella, A.D. (2021). I Would Never Want to Live That Again:’ Exploring Mothers’ Experiences with Child Welfare Prevention Services to Better Understand their Acquired Knowledge. Child Welfare: A Special Issue on Poverty and Child Welfare Services.

Abella, A.D., Vargo, A., Johnson, M., Cruz, A. Massey, O., Von der Embse, N. (January, 2022). Cross-Site Analysis and Case Study of STOP Program Grantee Perspectives on Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program Implementation. Research Performance Project Report, Annual Year 1. Submitted to the National Institute of Justice. GAN: 2020-RF-CX-0001.

Abella, A.D., Hordge-Freeman, E., Connor, K., Wilson, R., Landers, M., Armstrong, L. Understanding Challenges to Engagement with Parent Education and Early Childhood Programming in a Historically Black Neighborhood. (2021, September). Submitted to the Task Force for Understanding Blackness and Addressing Anti-Black Racism in Our Local, National, and International Communities.

Cruz, A., Abella, A.D., Johnson, M., Ismajli, F., Shockley, C. (July, 2021). Florida Pediatric Behavioral Health Collaborative Quarterly Report, Quarter 1, Year 1. Submitted to the Florida Department of Health.

Davidson Abella, A., Landers, M., and Ismajli, F. (March, 2021). Pinellas Integrated Care Alliance (PICA) Evaluation Final Report. Submitted to the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network. University of South Florida.

Davidson Abella, A., Ismajli, F., and Callejas, L. M. (2021). Exploring the Potential Benefits of Virtual Child Welfare Services. In R. Adams (Ed.), Child Welfare League of America Essay Collection, COVID-19 and Child Welfare: Challenges and Responses. Washington, DC: CWLA Press.

Callejas, L., Abella, A.D., Ismajli, F. (2020)(in press). Rapid Ethnographic Assessment of Pandemic Restrictions in Child Welfare: Lessons from Parent and Provider Experiences. Human Organization, 79 (4).

Abella, A., Landers, M., and Carmona, Y. (2020). Evaluation of the Pinellas Integrated Care Alliance (PICA) Implementation, Annual Report Year 2. Submitted to the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network. University of South Florida.

Abella, A., Landers, M., Carmona, Y. and Ismajli, F. (2020). Evaluation of the Pinellas Integrated Care Alliance (PICA) Implementation, Annual Report Year 3. Submitted to the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network. University of South Florida.