The winners of the second phase the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge were announced on Wednesday.
Each of the 12 proposals were picked from more than 50 entries submitted worldwide and received $200,000. The winners now have a chance to win a piece of the $8 million that Governor John Kasich set aside for the challenge.
Dublin-based Apportis, LLC, was one of four Ohio-based winners of the money. Apportis is proposing an app for people to have 24/7 access to a counselor.
Philip Payne of Apportis gives an example of a mother struggling with opioid addiction.
“She hasn’t told her work, but she has to make scheduling changes so she can go see a counselor, she has to find sitters for her children if they haven’t, she hopefully has reliable transportation,” he says, “So there’s a lot of factors that are barriers to that solution.”
He says the Apportis program cuts through all that.
“At that moment, when they’re struggling, maybe depressed, looking to use again, they can hit a big red button and basically connect, and have face-to-face with a live counselor,” he says.
While many of the other winners in Phase 1 and 2 of the challenge focus on the physical aspects of opioid addiction, Payne says it’s important to think about the mental side.
“We look at a holistic approach,” he says. “The science behind it is medication-assisted treatment. Part of it is the counseling, part of it might be drugs that take them off it. But it’s engaging, it now connects a person to somebody who’s going to lift them up, or be that stick when they need it.”
Beyond just tech, Apportis is looking to create standalone kiosks, so that people can have private conversations with counselors in shelters, or church-based organizations.
“We’ve identified the top 11 counties that are battling this problem the most, and we’re going to start there,” he says.
While $200,000 may not be much in the realm of technology, Payne says the program is already built, and that they’re hoping to further connect with the community. The Product Phase is the final stage of the challenge, and it will award up to 4 prizes of $1 million each. If Apportis is chosen, they will expand.
“The kiosks systems will be much more robust and more available, if that’s the route we want to go. The distribution: let’s get it out to more than just the 11 counties. And then, help build a bigger support network,” Payne says.
The multi-prong approach, he says, is essential.
“It’s not gonna take just our solution. It’s going to take multiple solutions. And there’s multiple winners here. But our solution can be the hanger for all those pieces,” he says.
The other winners of the second phase were:
Brave Technology Coop, Vancouver, Canada: For an online platform, including a mobile app, for remote supervision of people who use drugs in isolation, providing them with community-based support and access to overdose prevention and response.
DynamiCare Health, Boston: For a digital platform using incentives that support recovery to help patients struggling with opioid addiction.
Innovative Health Solutions, Versailles, Indiana: For a device that using electrical nerve stimulation behind a patient's ear to address symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
InteraSolutions, Orem, Utah: For an opioid risk assessment screening app that identifies patients with risk factors for opioid abuse.
OpiSafe.com, Denver, Colorado: For an automated patient monitoring system for opioid prescribers providing alerts related to factors including opioid dosage, pain levels and toxicology results.
Prapela, Inc., Concord, Massachusetts: For a specially designed vibrating pad to help treat opioid-exposed newborns with postnatal drug withdrawal syndrome.
relink.org, Aurora, Ohio: For a website that enables people struggling with addiction to find recovery service providers and related database development and pilot studies.
University of Akron, Akron, Ohio: For a specially designed glove that will change color upon a first responder's contact with an opioid.
University Hospitals, Cleveland: For a computer-aided dispatch technology for opioid surveillance and tracking in real-time.
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin: For a smartphone app that uses a suite of tools to increase patient's coping ability, recovery motivation and emotional support to prevent relapse of opioid abuse.
Vuronyx Technologies, Woburn, Massachusetts: For paper analytical device test cards that are portable and self-contained to allow first responders, law enforcement agents, medical professionals and crime scene investigators to quickly and reliably test for the presence of opioids.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.