digital therapeutic

SAMHSA Showcases CHESS Health in Digital Therapeutics Publication

CHESS Health’s work with the state of Oklahoma was showcased prominently as a successful case study of how digital therapeutics (DTx), which are evidence-based, can help to alleviate substance use disorder (SUD).

In its July 2023 newsletter on the use of technology for facilitating care for behavioral health needs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) featured CHESS Health’s partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as helping people with SUD. SAMHSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.

SUD, a growing public health crisis for Oklahomans, annually has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 residents through drug-related overdoses. Data from the Oklahoma Policy Institute revealed that 300,000 people in the state struggled with SUD. However, only one in three were getting the care they needed. Providers and other organizations in Oklahoma also lacked an electronic referral process, referral tracking or any means to stay engaged with the individual or their family following the referral.

In response to these factors, Oklahoma officials and CHESS Health partnered to offer eIntervention, a closed-loop referral system to connect those at risk with essential services, and introduced CHESS Health’s Connections App to provide support for SUD treatment and recovery. Oklahoma also made CHESS Health solutions available statewide, to all state-contracted SUD providers, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), recovery coaching organizations, hospital emergency departments and correctional facilities, among other entities.

Connections, a free smartphone app that is part of CHESS Health’s eRecovery solution, helps patients build healthy habits, reduce isolation and celebrate achievements. The foundation of a robust virtual community, the app is staffed by certified peer recovery specialists who have lived experience in SUD, offer 24/7 support and moderate lively discussion groups and video support meetings to create meaningful engagement and dialogue. Research has shown that when an individual with substance use disorder has support from a peer, they have increased rates of treatment initiation, lower dropout rates, heightened community support and better reintegration into the community after treatment.

connections app

Connections is the only app, backed by research, incorporating 24/7 peer support, digital CBT, and predictive risk alerts, that complements the work of SUD treatment providers. Through the app, which has a Spanish-language version called Conexiones, providers are able to track client progress, follow clients’ progress with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) lessons, engage directly with clients via individual messaging and interact through group discussions.

As a result of the CHESS Health partnership in Oklahoma, the SAMHSA newsletter underscored, a total of 1,654 service recipients in that state were actively engaged within the Connections App from Sept. 30, 2021, to Sept. 29, 2022. 

“One of the problems plaguing Oklahoma has been a lack of connectivity, coordination and SUD recovery resources across our state,” said Teresa Stephenson, director of Opioid and Women Specific Treatment Services/State Opioid Treatment Authority at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Stephenson and other state officials cited Oklahoma’s rural composition as a barrier to getting timely care.

“CHESS Health has enabled us to create a truly connected, collaborative and strategic statewide SUD program,” she added. “By beginning with our providers, we created a hub from which organizations across many agencies can now connect digitally.”

Stephanie Cottrell, program manager of re-entry and prison-based programs in Oklahoma, said the eIntervention solution allowed them to give a “really warm handoff” to providers when patients are leaving incarceration. She added that the Connections app has been offering additional support for patients.

“It just keeps them connected. …This allows them to reach somebody 24/7 and not have to worry about burdening somebody,” Cottrell said.

Hans Morefield, CEO of CHESS Health, said, “Oklahoma leaders had a vision to make the SUD referral and care coordination process timelier and more efficient. By partnering with us, the state was able to rapidly connect referral sources with treatment providers to lay the foundation for a statewide electronic referral network. Coupled with access to our Connections app, these improvements help to save lives.”

CHESS Health, which is dedicated to helping more people get into treatment and find meaningful connections that enable them to achieve lasting recovery from substance use disorder, makes its solutions available via other statewide partnerships, including those in New Mexico and West Virginia.