It’s easy enough to talk about the urge to use opioids when you’re seated across from your counselor in a regular appointment. It’s the reason you’re there.
But office visits are typically not when the temptation of opioid use disorder (OUD) is most challenging. That itch comes later, when you’re with friends at a party and using is part of the fun, or when you’re home alone, hoping a fix will help ease feelings of depression.
“Opioid use disorder is a 24-hour struggle for people and, as clinicians, we need to find ways to be supportive when people need us most, when the disorder distorts their thinking and incites impulsivity,” said Melissa Monroe, clinical supervisor at Rushford.
To expand availability for clients to confer with their clinician, Rushford – with Natchaug Hospital and the entire Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network – will use a portion of the funds allocated under a $1.5 million, three-year Connecticut Treatment Expansion for Accessibility (CTEA) grant to fund access to a special digital communication tool called TryCycle, developed by TryCycle Data Systems of Farmington.
“TryCycle allows clients to use their phones to stay engaged and communicate with their provider outside of regularly scheduled appointments,” Monroe explained, adding that there are more than 10,000 phone apps in the mental health and substance abuse field but none tethers the client to the clinical team the way TryCycle does.
The app allows clients to create a relationship with their treatment team, journaling and sharing thoughts with their program psychiatrist, clinician and recovery support specialist electronically. This interaction enhances the support clients receive during recovery. The TryCycle algorithm evaluates client input and behavioral data to predict the risk of relapse, which sparks decision-making by providers to help those most at risk.
“The goal of CTEA grant is to engage new and existing patients in treatment for OUD through a variety of recovery support services and new technologies. TryCycle is an innovative way to help clients in real time,” Monroe added.
Besides TryCycle, CTEA will help Rushford fund:
- Telehealth, a technology that enables clients to connect instantly with providers by computer or smartphone for face-to-face interactions.
- The hiring of full-time peer supports called “recovery support specialists” to work directly with clients in the Medication Assisted Treatment Close to Home (MATCH) program. These specialists will monitor TryCycle at night and on weekends and holidays to expand access for clients.
- Increased access to medication-assisted treatment for those who struggle to access or are unlikely to follow up on treatment without peer support.
- Provider education about OUD.
“We are excited to offer access for clients in ways that have never been possible before,” Monroe said.
For more information on help for opioid use disorder, click here.