Lindsay McAteer had been addicted to drugs for 20 years when she was arrested on a drug charge and was looking at a potential sentence of 12 years to life. The judge offered her another option: the Family & Children’s Services Women in Recovery (WIR) program, an intensive, outpatient alternative for women facing long prison sentences for drug-related offenses. Lindsay chose recovery. Now two years after her WIR graduation, her case has been expunged and she is close to completing her MBA. She is also one of the many WIR participants using a relapse prevention mobile application to support their life in recovery.
A-CHESS (Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System) is an evidence-based mobile application that helps people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction by aiding and preventing relapse and promoting wellness through a series of mobile features including connectivity, content and surveys.
Family & Children’s Services Women in Recovery (WIR) is using this app to provide its program participants with the resources they need to support their recovery and minimize the risk of incarceration. In this first year of implementation, 91% of the 150 licenses issued through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), are in active use by WIR graduates.
Oklahoma leads the country in the number of women incarcerated, with more than double the national average. Drugs, drug-related crimes and possession, are some of the top reasons women enter the state’s criminal justice system. The consequences of incarceration and familial separation are devastating for both mothers and their children. In many cases, prison is not cost-effective, does not enhance public safety, fails to promote true rehabilitation and places children at far greater risk of entering the criminal justice system.
WIR integrated the A-CHESS app, from CHESS Health, as an integral part of its continuing care treatment and recovery program. Participants have access to education and inspirational materials, communicate with other WIR participants and graduates, and send alerts to their support team when they’re in need of immediate help. Caregivers are able to monitor each women’s progress, post helpful sayings, engage them through secure messaging, and much more.
McAteer said that the app helps her to “check in with myself, it’s really great for self-awareness. The weekly check-ins allow me to gauge where I am with a lot of different aspects of my life and forces me to notice when I’m having difficulties in an area.”
Mimi Tarrasch, Senior Executive Director of Women in Recovery, needed a way to help WIR successfully transition back to their families and communities getting them back on their feet and out of the justice system. “We had spent 4 years trying to develop an app ourselves. Once we found A-CHESS, integration into our program was fast and we were quickly achieving results,” said Tarrasch.
Before A-CHESS, WIR depended on phone calls as the primary method of engaging women in the program. This presented a problem since there was limited staff to do individual outreach, and phone numbers often changed. Now that they have access to A-CHESS, engagement is easier for both the caregivers and the program participants.
Upon waking up each morning, the app asks WIR participants, “how confident are you of your abstinence today?” If the answer is “not very confident”, the person’s support team will be notified to stay on high alert.
The app delivers immediate resources to bolster coping competency for patients experiencing the risk of relapse. Surveys and assessments are designed to determine the risk of relapse, enabling clinicians to intervene before a relapse occurs. The application networks patients with caregivers and peers to strengthen resiliency. Features include a hot button (“Beacon”) for access to support, GPS tracking of travel near high-risk areas, medication and appointment reminders, and customized surveys and content and recovery plan management.
The innovation and strategic design of the WIR program have resulted in ongoing success over the past 8 years, with a higher than 70% program completion rate and a 4% recidivism rate over three years after completion. The A-CHESS app helps provide aggregate data to WIR staff to inform programmatic improvements helping graduates maintain recovery, and meeting the requirements of WIR’s new Pay For Success performance agreement with the state.
WIR’s Continuing Care, lifetime support for WIR graduates that includes recovery management, networking, coping skills in practice and the A-CHESS app, will be a poster presenter for the National Council for Behavioral Health NatCon18 conference in Washington D.C. on April 23-25, 2018.