CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WHSV) — A new tool to reduce isolation and offer support resources to West Virginians with Substance Use Disorder is officially available to the public.

The Office of Drug Control Policy, of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), announced on Monday that the Connections app – designed to allow treatment providers across the state to stay connected and engaged with their patients – is being expanded to the general public.

The resource, originally launched in April of this year with a goal to reduce isolation and offer support resources to West Virginians in recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, was first available only to patients affiliated with treatment providers to encourage engagement and treatment adherence; but now, the DHHR says it will be available to people in recovery who are no longer affiliated with a provider but still need the resources offered through the app.

The app’s developer, CHESS Health, of Rochester, NY says it’s an evidence-based mobile application designed and proven to provide ongoing support and relapse prevention to people recovering from SUD.

Features of the Connections app include:

• Digital cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to teach and reinforce key recovery skills
• Online, moderated discussion groups with peers and secure messaging with clinicians and peer recovery support specialists to address patient isolation and provide 24/7 support
• Recovery progress tracking through daily and weekly check-ins, sobriety tracking, and treatment planning functions
• Appointment and medication reminders to improve adherence
• Video, audio, and written content to motivate and educate individuals

“This innovative tool is important in helping West Virginians reach their recovery goals,” said Bob Hansen, Executive Director of the DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy. “The Connections app will allow residents in recovery to stay connected with supportive peers and their care team when they can’t attend in-person treatment and AA meetings.”

“In the midst of a pandemic, it is vital that we quickly enable a strategy for individuals in SUD treatment to maintain the connection and support they desperately need for ongoing recovery,” said Dr. James H. Berry, Chair of West Virginia University’s Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. “On behalf of treatment providers across the state, we appreciate the rapid response of Governor Justice and DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy in bringing this needed technology to West Virginians.”

Providers and individuals in recovery wanting information about access to the Connections app or CHESS Health Platform can click here.