Innovation and technology to provide SUD support

Maximizing Opioid Settlement Impact

As state and local officials across the United States search for innovative, evidence-based approaches that meet disbursement criteria for the $54 billion in opioid settlement funds that flow through the year 2038, one direction is clear. Given the strain on our behavioral healthcare system, the use of proven technology must be a part of the solution. Technology can be the key to amplifying the impact of opioid settlement funding, particularly when paired with more traditional approaches.

The benefits of utilizing technology to combat SUD are established and numerous. They include significantly expanding access to treatment among hard-to-reach populations, reducing other health inequities, and providing individuals in treatment and recovery with the ongoing support essential to achieving lifelong success.

In addition, technology offers readymade, easily implemented, and monitored programs that do not require undue burden on an already tasked workforce of care providers lacking in the numbers required to treat a growing population in need. These solutions have been expertly developed and are simple to adapt by providers and organizations of all types and sizes.

Solutions that Span the SUD Lifecycle

CHESS Health, for one, offers evidence-based digital health solutions that span the entire lifecycle of SUD management, from prevention to intervention to recovery. This scientifically proven approach is about extending the reach of providers to help meet individuals where they are, remove barriers to treatment, improve treatment adherence, and provide critical support in moments when relapse, or return to use, may be imminent.

CHESS Health’s comprehensive solutions include ePrevention, screening for individuals at risk for SUD to help prevent its onset; eIntervention, a closed-loop referral system to connect those at risk with essential services; and eRecovery, ongoing support for individuals during treatment and in recovery. These solutions can be applied in tandem or each can stand on its own. All are delivered through partnerships with healthcare providers, community organizations, tribal organizations, state and local government, and health plans.

ePrevention can be the first potential step in the process. Individuals may not proactively seek help for SUD as they do not recognize they are in need. This is where an automated SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) digital tool such as ePrevention becomes highly valuable. This tool can be utilized by individuals to self-screen, or by providers to facilitate in-person screenings. 

When a need is identified, the closed-loop referral system of eIntervention ensures a seamless transition for individuals who are referred to care, creating a warm handoff and more seamless entry into the care process.  

In turn, the eRecovery component supports individuals participating in outpatient treatment. This digital tool is designed to help reduce isolation while reinforcing positive coping and recovery skills. It provides an additional level of support that can be critical to achieving success.  For example, individuals in outpatient programs typically spend one hour each week with a provider, which means they are spending 167 hours on their own. Research shows that isolation creates risk. The opposite of isolation is connectivity, and eRecovery can make a substantial difference in overall outcomes.

CHESS Health’s eRecovery solution features the Connections app, a smartphone app that offers a peer-moderated community, a library of recovery and coping skill resources developed to reinforce what individuals are learning in their provider-led sessions, on-demand cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) modules, and virtual support meetings. Participation creates a strong sense of community critical to long-term success. At any time of the day or night, individuals can speak with a trained peer recovery specialist who can help manage risk moments―such as triggers, cravings, anxiety, and negative thinking―to avoid relapse and remain in therapy.

A Spanish-language edition of the app―Conexiones―is also available. The Conexiones app provides the same evidence-based features as the original app while addressing particular challenges often faced by members of Latinx communities.

Evidence-Based Innovation

Clinical studies show that 85% of patients utilizing the CHESS Health Connections app reported to their providers and researchers the app improved their treatment. Using the app correlated with a 40% to 50% reduction in key relapse risk factors, a 20% increase in the duration of treatment, a 30% to 40% decrease in dropout rates from intensive outpatient programs, and 30% to 50% greater abstinence, compared to the control group, after a six- to 12-month follow-up.

In addition to providing consistent support, the use of technology serves to expand the reach of providers and care organizations and further advance health equity by enabling proven SUD treatment and recovery programs to reach vastly underserved populations. This includes individuals living in rural areas where there is little to no access to behavioral healthcare, and those in communities where the social determinants of health (SDOH)―income, education, stigmas associated with SUD, and many more―present tremendous obstacles to seeking treatment. 

Far-Reaching Impact

Together, these technologies help to optimize efficiency, positively impact patient satisfaction and care plan adherence, facilitate cross-organization collaboration and coordination, control costs, and advance health equity. As decision-makers across the country carefully consider the most effective approaches to ensuring opioid settlement dollars generate the greatest return on investment, proven technology is a critical part of the equation.

Learn more about the opioid settlement funds, how to navigate the parameters, and how technology can improve outcomes, by downloading CHESS Health’s free, online Opioid Settlement Fund Allocation Guide.