Vital Signs Blog

Blog: Have an app for opioid addiction? You could win $15,000

Calling all techies: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration plans to award a total of $30,000 in prizes for apps that can be worked into recovery plans for opioid addiction.

A number of digital health developers have turned their attention to the behavioral health space, which has traditionally existed in its own silo. But as new regulations have pushed for payment parity with physical health conditions, more investment is flowing into the sector. There's also growing awareness among health systems that they'll need to tackle mental health if they want to succeed with risk-based payment contracts that reward them for outcomes.

Now SAMHSA is hoping to tap into some of that energy.

The federal agency is awarding eight cash prizes for apps that can fit into ongoing treatment programs for opioid misuse and provide patients with educational materials and support. Developers can enter newly created apps or existing apps that have been modified to meet the requirements of the program.

Developers must include certain features and resources in the final product but otherwise are given wide latitude to design their own app. For developers who need more guidance, SAMHSA's website provides insights on the type of support patients might need during recovery.

For instance, the apps might provide information about the side effects patients could feel during medication-assisted therapy, or offer resources that help patients include their family and friends in their treatment.

Other app features might focus on preventing relapse and helping patients maintain their recovery long term.

The deadline for submissions is May 27 and SAMHSA will announce the winners in July. The grand prize is $15,000 and an invitation to present the app at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence. Second- and third-place winners will receive $7,500 and $5,000, respectively. There will be five honorable mentions that will each receive $1,000.


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