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CHESS Health launches substance use disorder recovery support app in Spanish

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After giving birth in 2021, a woman was unable to take her newborn daughter home due to her active use of opioids during her pregnancy. The trauma of being a new mother unable to care for her child prompted her to begin her substance use disorder treatment, which included using CHESS Health’s Connections App, a recovery support solution.

While under therapy, she was only able to have supervised visits with her daughter. One night, she particularly struggled.

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“In the middle of the night, she posted in the app for the first time ever, something along the lines of ‘I’m 41 days into my recovery and I’m not sure how I can get through this.’ … We read that message at 1:30 in the morning because our team is working and looking and supporting the community all night long,” said Hans Morefield, CEO of CHESS Health, in a recent interview. “And we supported her at 1:30 in the morning and the community of other individuals [on the app] offered her support that night and into the next day.”

The woman, whose identity Morefield declined to provide to protect her privacy, has since gotten married, gained custody of her daughter and given birth to a healthy son. Now, Rochester, New York-based CHESS Health will be able to support more people given that it is launching a Spanish version of the app called Conexiones. More than 7% of Hispanic Americans have a substance use disorder, but have less access to treatment than non-Hispanic Americans, according to a news release from the company.

“There are tens of millions of Americans whose primary language is Spanish, who struggle with access to treatment and in particular, struggle with access to recovery support services,” Morefield said.

Conexiones will provide the same type of services as the Connections App, which offers 24/7 peer support and management tools for those in recovery. However, it will have a focus on challenges specifically faced by people in the Latinx community. 

“Collective experiences are essential to healing from SUDs. By providing Conexiones, we’re equipping our Spanish-speaking participants with culturally mindful resources and support. These are critical components that will enhance their recovery experience while reducing disparities in treatment that exist today,” said Dr. Anna Lee, director of innovation at Social Model Recovery Systems, in the news release. The provider is an early adopter of the Conexiones app.

In addition to helping people in the recovery phase of substance use disorder, CHESS Health also supports prevention and intervention. Its ePrevention solution helps identify at-risk people early on through its anonymous online screening test. If someone is considered to be at high risk, it encourages treatment, provides resources and offers the option to speak to one of CHESS’ specialists. Its eIntervention tool helps refer people to providers for treatment.

CHESS Health works with behavioral health providers, health plans and public sector organizations to offer its solutions. The latter includes departments of health, departments of human services, tribal health programs and public schools.

Other digital startups for substance use disorder include Bicycle Health and Boulder Care, which provide treatment for addiction. CHESS Health, however, is meant as a service to complement people’s treatment in between visits with their provider, Morefield said.

“They might come in on a Tuesday afternoon to see their therapist,” Morefield said. “They’re early in recovery. Hopefully, they’re going to have a great 50-minute session with their therapist. And then it’s 167 hours until they’re coming back to see their therapist in the next session. We’re the support tool to help them get through those 167 hours.”

Photo: Nataliia Nesterenko, Getty Images