After the Trump Administration declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency both the federal government down to small Ohio towns have been doing everything they can to relieve the state of its deadly drug addiction. Grants have been given out, new programs have formed, and the numbers of non-fentanyl related opioid deaths are declining for the first time in several decades.
Among the efforts to combat Ohio’s opioid crisis is the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge launched in October 2017 with help from the state’s Third Frontier technology development branch.
The challenge was issued for private companies to develop apps, tools, and other technology to help combat the opioid crisis in Ohio and across the country. After several months of research, development, and judging, four winners were announced, each receiving a $1 million prize. The four winners were chosen from a group of 12 finalists out of more than 50 entries from across the world.
The winners are encouraged to use the prize money to further their strategy’s development and distribution. Below you’ll find a list of the four winners and their technology and information about the eight other finalists.
Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge Winners
The winners of the challenge were unveiled in late August. The winning entries are considered the most impactful solutions most likely to immediately improve the opioid crisis. Many are already in use by both private and government agencies.
DynamiCare Health – Boston-based DynamiCare developed a mobile app to keep those in early recovery from faltering or giving up on sobriety. The app puts the user’s appointments, drug tests, and other important information in one place while also offering encouragement and rewards for following guidelines and schedules. The app can be used for opioids as well as other addictive habits like tobacco or alcohol use.
You can use the app for GPS check-ins to meetings, counseling, and other activities with rewards distributed on a smart debit card that won’t work in liquor stars, bars, and cannot distribute cash.
“People can actually earn rewards for staying sober and staying in treatment,” says DynamiCare CEO Eric Gastfriend. “We do substance testing through the app, using connected breath testing devices and saliva testing devices over selfie video.”
Brave Technology – Brave has offices in Columbus and other Ohio counties putting them on the forefront of the epidemic. Brave Technology’s winner is known as the Brave Button and can be installed in the home of someone working through addiction. Like Life Alert, a press of the Brave Button immediately alerts first responders and other personnel to an overdose or personal crisis. Brave has already installed several Brave Buttons in Ohio households.
Prapela – Massachusetts-based Prapela developed a small mattress for infants born with opioid addiction to help avoid common health problems. The mattress delivers a soothing vibration known as Stochastic Vibrotactile Stimulation throughout the night to calm irritability and breathing problems while keeping the infant safe. The pillow has already received awards from the National Institutes of Health and the FDA. Prapela is offering free pillows to 52 Ohio hospitals.
University Hospitals – The last $1 million winner is Cleveland’s University Hospitals and the UH Care Continues app. The UH Care Continues app is designed as a safety net to help opioid addicts transition from the hospital or treatment back into every day lives. University Hospitals estimates the app has helped stopped the movement of 12,000 opioid pills in its first eight months. University Hospitals plans to form UH Care Continues into a separate entity to help spread the app to other Ohio hospitals.
The Other Ohio Opioid Technology Finalists
The four winners were chosen from the 12 finalists. Each finalist was awarded $200,000 from Ohio to further refine their methods and technology before the last contest round.
Apportis – Developed an app for 24/7 access to a certified counselor. The Apportis app was one of the only winners that dealt exclusively with the psychological side of opioid addiction. “At that moment, when they’re struggling, maybe depressed, looking to use again, they can hit a big red button and basically connect, and have face-to-face with a live counselor,” says Philip Payne of Apportis. “We look at a holistic approach,” he says. “The science behind it is medication-assisted treatment. Part of it is the counseling, part of it might be drugs that take them off it. But it’s engaging, it now connects a person to somebody who’s going to lift them up, or be that stick when they need it.”
Innovative Health Solutions – Developed a nerve stimulation device that’s placed behind the ear which can weaken heroin detox symptoms.
InternaSolution – Invented an opioid risk assessment app to help identify people most vulnerable to opioid abuse.
OpiSafe.com – Provides automated patient monitoring systems for opioid prescribers. The site provides alerts and data on proper dosages, pain levels, and toxicology reports.
Relink.org – Helps addicted users to find local recovery services while also linking to pilot studies for new information.
University of Akron – Gloves that change color when a first responder touches opioids.
University of Wisconsin-Madison – Developed an app that can help with recovery motivation, emotional support, and other mental health issues that stem from opioid addiction and finding drug rehabs in Ohio.
Vuronyx Technology – Invented paper test cards that allow first responders to quickly and safely test for opioids in the field.
Against Opioids on All Fronts
Ohio and the nation are continuously looking to gain ground on the opioid epidemic, and the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge gives addiction and health officials more ammunition on several fronts against deadly opioids.