Smartphones Helping Veterans

As Memorial Day approaches, we remember and honor the men and women who have died while serving in our armed forces as well as those veterans who have returned with emotional and physical challenges.

Organizations like the Loyola Recovery Foundation aim to help veterans facing numerous challenges, including addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, half of substance abuse treatment admissions among veterans aged 21 to 39 involve alcohol as the primary substance of abuse. Loyola Recovery Foundation, a Rochester, NY-based non-profit that provides support to veterans, is turning to wireless device technology to help veterans overcome their own addictions and support fellow veterans fighting the same battle.

Through its mPOWER program, Loyola has equipped 43 high-risk/high-need veterans with smartphones loaded with ACHESS, an addiction support system app. The smartphones give veterans 24/7 access to their care team, peer support group, online recovery tools, as well as meeting and appointment reminders.

“Our patients struggle with their addictions 24 hours a day, and many of them live in rural areas where they don’t have ready access to their support systems,” said Loyola Vice President for Medical Affairs (and Vietnam veteran) Jack Resnik, MD. “The smartphones allow our patients to reach out to their care managers and to each other for the support and encouragement they need to heal.”

Equipped with apps for group discussions, news and upcoming events, recovery podcasts and weekly treatment surveys, the smartphones also feature a “panic button” for one-touch communication with a care manager. A GPS-based alert also “pings” the care manager if the patient comes in too-close proximity to a high-risk location such as a local tavern.

Since deploying the devices in late 2012, emergency department visits have decreased, and Loyola has seen detox readmissions among the users decrease by 80 percent. With the average cost of a 10-day detox stay running near $6,000 that means dramatic cost savings.

“The mPOWER program has really made a difference for our veterans,” said Dr. Resnik. “We look forward to expanding it to more veterans this fall.”