Life Connect designs app to reduce addiction relapse
Journal of Business - 3/11/2019
Life Connect, an app created through Spokane-based Life Recovery Solutions Inc., is designed to connect those struggling with mental illness, drug addiction, or homelessness with their personal support groups and professionals.
Life Connect has been available to download since January, and some providers, ranging from homeless shelters to alcohol and drug treatment centers, are taking steps to incorporate the technology into their organizations, says Ed Stevenson, president of Life Recovery Solutions.
Providers are charged a fee for each client who uses Life Connect, and those providers now can bill Medicare and Medicaid for the app, which falls under the description of telemedicine, he asserts. The subscription fee will vary depending on the quantity of licenses that providers purchase, each license providing one person access to the app.
"We're putting the tools in the hands of those who need it the most, but it's always connected to a provider. The provider is the one who signs them up to use our software," he says.
Stevenson says he realized technology could be part of the solution to Spokane's addiction and homeless crisis, and he and his wife, Gail Stevenson, who is CEO of the company, launched Life Recovery Solutions in 2014 with a mission to provide software tools for those with disabilities, addictions, or illnesses to stay connected to support groups.
The couple began testing the app over three years ago with a few of the addiction support groups they led. Seeing positive results, they decided to pursue further development.
Through the app, counselors, doctors, and probation officers will be able to track a client's progress and create access for communication.
Within the app, Zoey, a virtual assistant, follows a scripted conversation in response to questions or statements.
"Hello, how are you feeling today?" asks Zoey when Ed taps into the feature.
Testing out the dialogue, Ed responds, "I'm depressed."
"Depression can be caused by many different things. Have you talked with anyone in your life circle?" asks Zoey.
When Ed starts the conversation saying he got evicted, Zoey is programmed to respond with questions about his location and give information about The Spokane Homeless Coalition, including a number and address.
Gail says, 'We don't give any medical advice. We just give encouragement, positive feedback, or resources."
Ed says Zoey adds a personal touch to a digital app and may even help combat feelings of loneliness since she is accessible at all times.
"Zoey becomes their confidant. They tell her things they're too ashamed to tell an individual face to face," he says. "But once they've typed it in there, the counselor can see it on the desktop. Then the counselor knows what to address. That's how they dig down deep and get the healing."
Life Connect includes a contact list that includes a counselor who can be contacted through the app, providing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant communication through a secure network.
Another feature is a journal in which personal thoughts can be recorded, as well as a feature that enables the user to track and gauge one's mood.
A location and time tracker with check-in and check-out options can help addicts with accountability and validity, providing probation officers with proof of attendance at mandatory meetings and compliance with curfews.
Often, when homeless centers in the area have housing that opens, they can have a hard time tracking down those on a waiting list, Ed says.
Life Connect solves that issue by sending out personal alerts about available housing or universal alerts to all who have Life Connect if, for example, the temperature drops, making the need to find warm shelter more emergent.
The Stevensons say they hope to work with the local EnVision Center, one of 18 nationwide hubs that offers housing assistance, food assistance, health care access and more, and other providers to help who they call the city"s most vulnerable population.
Gail points out that there are agencies and providers who are giving various services to homeless addicts in the area with some resources overlapping. The app can create a wrap around service portfolio for all of them, so they can work together to keep better track of people on the street and move them out of homelessness, Gail says.
"They don't have to duplicate their services anymore, because they can pass them onto the next organization that does training and the next organization that helps them with housing and so on," Gail says.
The Stevensons both say they grew up in families struggling with alcohol abuse, and Ed, who grew up in Spokane, lost his 37-year-old brother to addiction.
The couple have been running recovery groups for years and were witnessing a pattern of relapse with recovering addicts. They saw a gap between people getting out of rehab and completely getting their life back together.
"It's that transition that people trip up the most, so we kept hearing the same struggles repeated over and over among a wide range of people," Ed says. "So, we came up with this app or this software solution, which helps people through that transition."
Having a professional and a support group identify trends or patterns, whether positive or negative, can be key in one's recovery, Ed says.
"What ours (software) really does is changes their habits. It's behavior modification," Ed says. "If we can change their habits, then we can change how they end up at the end of the day, because somebody comes out of rehab and within three months most of them relapse. Eighty percent fail within the first year, but (rehab facilities) rarely track it."
Long-term sobriety allows the brain to have a chance to heal and rewire, Ed asserts.
When the recovering addict attends a counseling appointment, the counselor can already be aware of what issues to target in order to help the patient, he says.
To develop the app, the couple worked with Tim Krauss, a developer with App to Market, who they met at Startup Spokane. The app will have more features in the future, the couple say. Under the umbrella of Life Recovery Solutions, they have several other business ideas lined up in the long term.
"We can really impact the community. We can change the social dynamics of what is happening in our communities," Ed claims.