‘Accessible to everyone’

Published 8:48 am Friday, July 5, 2019

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Stepworks launches addiction recovery app
By Olivia Mohr
Stepworks, a residential addiction treatment facility with a location in Nicholasville, launched an addiction recovery app called Recovering(me) last week.
The goal of the app is to address the fact that about 10 percent of the U.S. population struggles with addiction and about 90 percent of those don’t seek treatment, said Stepworks chief operating officer Drew Ingram.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of national drug overdose deaths in 2017 was 70,237, about twice as many as the number in 2007, which was 36,010. The number of national drug overdose deaths involving any opioid was 47,600 in 2017, compared to 18,515 in 2007.
Ingram said people may not seek treatment for a variety of reasons, the three most prevalent of which are cost — the cost of treatment itself or the investment of time to receive treatment — accessibility issues and stigma.
“Those barriers are there, so what we wanted to do with Recovering(me) was knock down those barriers, actually provide something that anybody can access at any time, that was affordable, that also brought the life-changing recovery resources that we offer in our facilities to everybody, wherever they are,” Ingram said.
Though Ingram said the app is not considered treatment because treatment is defined as a patient-provider relationship in the healthcare sector, he said the app’s main purpose is to provide education, community and access to resources, which are crucial.
The education component is education on what addiction is — if addiction is a disease and if it is, what that means, and educating users on resources available to them. Ingram said education is important because when looking at intensive outpatient treatment, residential treatment, outpatient treatment and medication-assisted treatment, education is at the core.
He said the app provides community by providing a social networking opportunity with people engaged in the common cause of recovery, which is important because when looking at treatment facilities, the number one thing that helps get people clean is support groups.
“Community and other people in recovery is the number one resource for helping new addicts get into recovery, and we think Recovering(me) is going to be a good option for those groups,” Ingram said.
Emily Fox, marketing director of Stepworks, said Stepworks considers addiction a brain disease. She said the education offered through Recovering(me) allows those struggling with addiction to realize they have a disease or, for loved ones of people who have an addiction, that their loved one has a disease. The app can be a tool for loved ones of addicts and is curated to fit their needs, Fox said.
“Addiction doesn’t just impact the addict,” Fox said. “Addiction impacts the entire family, and so this is a tool that anyone in that circle of impact can put in their toolbox.”
Recovering(me) is available for both iOS and Android devices and is free to download. The basic plan is free, while the pro plan is $29.99 per month and is coming this fall. The pro plan will feature Recovery Coaches, who work alongside the app users to provide support, encouragement and accountability and can also refer users to treatment options and facilities in their communities.
Fox said chatrooms on the app will be monitored by Recovery Coaches, even within a basic plan, so conversations stay on topic and focused. Users can stay anonymous in chatrooms. The social networking opportunities provided on the app include a multitude of topics, including seeking sobriety through faith and groups for spouses of people struggling with addiction.
“We just don’t want anyone to fight this disease alone,” Fox said.
One of the goals of the app is to be accessible to anyone, anywhere, even within the privacy of their own homes, especially because not everyone will seek treatment at a facility for a multitude of reasons which include the fear of what if people find out about their addictions, they will lose their families, their careers or their influence in their communities due to stigma surrounding addiction, Fox said.
Fox said part of the outreach Stepworks has done for Recovering(me) is sending out the message that everyone struggles with something in order to dissolve the stigma.
“I think that we are, as a team, being very vulnerable and sharing with our folks how this tool can impact anyone,” Fox said.
Aaron Smallwood, facility administrator at Stepworks’s Nicholasville location, said when addicts’ loved ones are involved in the recovery process, it increases their chances for success, and it’s something he hopes the app will foster, especially because he said people can’t recover without some form of help.
“This is not a problem that you can put a Band-Aid on and just hope it gets better,” Smallwood said. “This is a progressive illness. It always gets worse — it never gets better without treatment — and what we’re trying to do is just put treatment in the hands of as many people in our community as we possibly can.”
On a national level and a local level within Nicholasville, Smallwood said the addiction crisis manifests itself in many ways, including through overdose deaths, families that are torn apart, grandparents raising children because children have been taken away from their parents or their parents are incarcerated and a lack of labor hours in the community as people don’t show up for work. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the abuse of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs costs the nation over $740 billion annually due to crime, lost work productivity and health care costs.
“One of the things we know is that addiction prevents people from being able to manage their lives in a healthy way,” Smallwood said. “They can’t keep jobs. They can’t pay their bills. They can’t take care of their responsibilities, and all of those things affect the community in a negative way. That really makes what we’re doing so important because the implications are far-reaching if you can just help one person get their lives together and deal with this issue.”
Rich Hammons is a Recovery Coach who has worked with people through the app before it launched and while Stepworks was still piloting the app. He also has struggled with addiction himself and is in recovery. All the Recovery Coaches will be people in recovery, Hammons said.
“I have the advantage over other professionals of being able to say, ‘Yeah, me too. I’ve been there,’” Hammons said.
He said prior to starting work with Stepworks a couple of years ago, he was a professional in a different field, and the stigma surrounding addiction kept him from seeking treatment.
“I absolutely would have used an app like this,” he said. “It would have been very beneficial.”

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