September is National Recovery Month, with the mission to “promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.”1. In light of the ongoing pandemic and increased need of those suffering from SUDs to find new ways to access recovery support, the theme of 2020’s recovery month is appropriately Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections.

According to a recent study by the Addiction Policy Forum (in conjunction with the National Institute on Drug Abuse), more than 1 in 3 participants reported a disruption in their access to treatment or recovery support during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]1 Even more concerning is that at least 24% of those responding to the study indicate that their substance use has been affected as a result of COVID-19, with 20% of these participants reporting an increase in substance use. Many have cited the lack of access to in-person 12-step meetings and the closure of peer-run recovery centers as a primary cause. We know that communities of support and healthy peer interaction are crucial aspects of recovery, and social distancing has been a major blow to many people living with SUDs.

CHESS Health seeks to bridge the gap between responsible social distancing and vital communities of support through technology, specifically via the Connections App, the client facing feature of the CHESS Platform. The Connections App offers 24/7 support and connection with peer counselors, a support team, and even others going through treatment. In this time of uncertainty and self-isolation, it can be hard to maintain a healthy support system, but technology has been proven to serve as a link from patients to their communities.

An important function of the Connections App is the 24/7 Helpline, meaning that in times of crisis, with the press of a button, someone will reach out to check in and address the issue. The social section of the App gives patients the ability to create an anonymous profile where they can share sobriety milestones, thoughts, and experiences. The messaging function on Connections allows for patients to join discussions with their peers for inspiration and advice, while also eventually becoming a tool that allows the patient to help others in the future. Whatever obstacle or achievement there may be in an individual’s recovery, these portions of the App allow them to post anonymously and receive both support and encouragement from their recovery community.

The Connections App was developed to offer clients an easy way to join an online community of peers who are also in recovery and seeking a new way of life. COVID-19 has created a potentially disastrous situation for people with SUDs who have been disconnected from communities of recovery, and we know that what matters most is to find a way to maintain these relationships. It has long been understood that peer-led centers of support are the backbone of good, long-lasting recovery for those living with SUDs. In order to scale services and maintain recovery, especially in unusual times, CHESS Health seeks to modernize the communication process. Through the CHESS Connections App, patients are merely a message or call away from getting the help they need and the encouragement they deserve!

[1] https://rm.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org

2 https://www.addictionpolicy.org/post/covid-19-pandemic-impact-on-patients-families-individuals-in-recovery-fromsubstance-use-disorder