Our understanding of addiction has evolved through the years. In the past, many believed that those afflicted by addiction simply lacked the willpower or moral principles to stop using. Over time, we’ve learned that addiction is a complex disease which ultimately alters brain function and compromises a user’s ability to make sound, healthy decisions. As our knowledge of the compulsive and chemical nature of addiction has evolved, so too has our approach to treatment. Ascent in Cleveland is developing a high-tech recovery tool to help users quit, for good.
“What we know about addiction has changed. We know it’s about much more than just wanting to quit. It requires so much support,” said Brian Bailys, co-founder of Ascent. “Going to treatment is a huge step for a lot of people, but once you leave, it can feel like you’ve lost that support system. People have a tough time. People relapse. We’re building an app so that support is always accessible, and we can help people stay on the path to recovery.”
Ascent offers 24/7, year-round peer recovery coaching services. Certified coaches, registered through the state of Ohio and living with at least three years of sobriety, offer support services to those currently struggling with addiction. Coaches can locate transportation or housing resources, offer medical referrals and more. Or, they can simply lend a compassionate and understanding ear.
Bailys developed the idea for Ascent following his own addiction recovery experience. While in treatment, he noticed a lot in common between himself and the other seven people in the program, but where they differed was socioeconomic status and family life. Bailys realized that he had a support system around him that made him confident about his recovery but questioned whether his new friends in treatment would have the same resources.
“Six of the seven relapsed within 90 days. I was not ready to go back to work yet, so I thought to myself, ‘There must be a better solution,’” said Bailys. “I talked to some of the foremost authorities and experts in substance abuse and they all said that the real gap in treatment is continuing care. What do people do when they leave that safe, secure treatment environment?”
Bailys partnered with New Directions Treatment Center in Northeast Ohio to launch the mobile recovery treatment community and, with early support of The Cleveland Foundation and the Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board, has been building his team. In December 2017, Ascent received support from the Ohio Third Frontier to further grow their team and develop the addiction recovery app as part of the state’s larger mission to address the opioid epidemic with technology.
“I think this is a tremendous move by the state. We’ve got to do something different to fight this thing. We have an up to 90% relapse rate within the first year for opioid users,” said Bailys. “I’m really excited not only for Ascent, but other opportunities or options out there because accepting the status quo is not enough. Ohio recognizes that and said, ‘Hey, the tech community might have new ideas and solutions.’”
With the newfound support, Ascent plans to add several features to make the recovery app more social and keep users engaged in and involved in their own recovery. It’s when people feel isolated that they are at the greatest risk for relapse. The team hopes the new elements will be developed and ready to launch by Spring 2018.
“We’re so excited to bring this to market and we feel really good about what it can do to support people’s recoveries. We’re starting out primarily focused on Ohio, but we have plans to expand Ascent nationally,” said Bailys. “We aren’t even live yet, but we’ve had over 12,000 users sign up. We’re encouraged by the enthusiasm and very optimistic for the future of the Ascent solution.”