A company based in Dublin, Ohio was recently designated as one of 12 companies awarded funds for technological projects focused on fighting the opioid crisis. Last month, the company received $200,000 to develop an app that connects opioid addiction treatment patients with counselors.
The startup, called Apportis LLC, submitted a grant proposal earlier this year to the second phase of the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, as part of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission.
Gov. John Kasich set aside $8 million to go toward encouraging business to develop programs and products that will benefit addiction treatment.
In the first phase of the challenge, called the Idea Phase, researchers and healthcare providers from Ohio and other states submitted innovative ideas to bolster intervention and opioid addiction treatment efforts.
The second phase, labeled the Challenge Phase, encouraged businesses to submit plans for possible technology-based projects that diagnose, prevent, connect and protect patients. Some focus areas include identifying individuals at high risk of overdosing; reducing drug cravings or withdrawal symptoms; connecting patients to intervention specialists; and improving safety measures for first responders.
The 12 companies that won the second phase will have the opportunity to enter the third phase of the competition, where they can present their products for market distribution consideration and win one of four $1 million grant prizes.
Apportis LLC, which was founded in 2015 and specializes in telemedicine and other healthcare solutions, will utilize the funding to create a streamlined version of its online telehealth platform for a mobile app. Individuals who are in recovery will be able to use the app to get connected to opioid addiction treatment specialists and counselors.
The app will also include educational videos and tutorials on substance abuse treatment and be able to connect patients to resources in all 88 of Ohio’s counties. For people without access to internet or cell phone services, the app will be available at kiosks in hospitals, homeless shelters and other locations. The company is currently testing the app among numerous healthcare providers.
Other companies that were also awarded $200,000 in funding include Prapela, Inc., which is developing a vibrating pad to soothe babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome; the University of Akron, which is designing a color-changing glove to alert first responders when they come in contact with an opioid substance; and Innovative Health Solutions, which is implementing a device that regulates opioid withdrawal symptoms by stimulating the nervous system.
Ohio has been greatly affected by the opioid epidemic. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 4,854 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the state during 2017. Fentanyl was responsible for the majority of overdose fatalities. Deaths related to cocaine and methamphetamine also increased that year. However, the rates of prescription opioid overdose deaths have declined since 2015.
Gov. Kasich established the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team (GCOAT) in 2011. Since then, GCOAT has proposed a number of initiatives to increase addiction treatment access, expand opioid prescription monitoring programs and implement drug abuse prevention initiatives in schools.