But a special program pioneered by Loyola Recovery Foundation using smartphones, University of Wisconsin’s ACHESS technology, Peer Support, Medication Assisted Treatment with Vivitrol and is helping lost soldiers reconnect and find their way back.
Loyola runs two inpatient detox centers at VA hospitals in Bath and Albany, N.Y. And while their treatment programs are very successful, they were seeing too many readmissions for their liking. The care team brainstormed: How could they build protective factors for patients after they leave one of their facilities? How could they restore that camaraderie and belongingness a platoon provides and use it to facilitate long-term recovery?
The answer was right in their pockets -- a smartphone equipped with an evidence based app.
“We had been thinking about a way to tie mobile technology into our treatment program for a while,” said Loyola’s Director of IT, Melissa Ogletree. “We saw it as a way to keep patients connected with our providers electronically and give them a broader base of support. ”Loyola applied for and received a SAMHSA Targeted Capacity Expansion Technology grant to fund the idea. The mPower Program was born.
Loyola kept 43 chronic patients connected to their care team and peers 24 hours a day on their smartphones. With the smartphone app, Veterans receive the following:
- Meeting reminders and updates
- Electronic advice and encouragement
- The ability to create personal profiles and post messages
- And, send private messages to one another
Each password-protected, HIPAA-compliant device also has a panic button if the veteran feels he or she is having a recovery emergency and needs to talk to someone immediately. The phones are also used to conduct weekly surveys—University of Pennsylvania’s Brief Alcoholism Monitor-- with each veteran. And if their survey scores indicate high risk, they get a call from the care team to check up and offer help.
With the use of the smartphone app, the results have been amazing! In the 10 months prior to enrollment of the mPower program, Loyola had 110 total detox admissions of the 43 enrolled mPOWER patients. In the 10 months after enrollment, there were only 23. “The cost of an average detox stay is huge,” said Ogletree. “A 10-day stay could be about $8,000 and when you consider that some patients go through detox three times in a year the total cost may be $24,000. That’s a dramatic savings. Reducing relapses also decreases the cost of emergency department visits.”
And the best success has been the improved lives of the veterans themselves. “Soldiers work as a team,” said mPower Program Medical Director Dr. Bernard Plansky. “They’re part of a brotherhood that cares for each other. They have common stressors during and after their service. Through the phones and with the help of our staff, they’re able to reach out and take care of each other again. They have 24/7 support from people who understand them and their situation. The program brings forth their strengths and resources and empowers them to successfully face this present battle.”