A dozen high-tech ideas for fighting the opioid crisis have each been awarded $200,000 from Ohio’s Third Frontier fund. The winners were picked in a contest announced last year, and there’s still a final round of cash to come.
More than 50 proposals from around the world were submitted to the Opioid Technology Challenge. The winning 12 include apps and web-based services to link people to support services and to prevent relapse, ways to screen and monitor for opioid abuse, and equipment to help with opioid withdrawal.
Brian Carrico with Indiana-based Innovation Health Solutions created a device that blocks brain signals that trigger withdrawal symptoms by over 80% - within an hour. “So that allows someone to come out of opioid withdrawal, and then they, of course, can think clearly and make better decisions and move on to treatment and recovery. But if you can never make it to, if you cannot make through withdrawal, you cannot make it to treatment and recovery,” Carrico said. “That’s why we named this ‘the Bridge’ – it bridges you from whatever you’re on to where you need to get to.”
Abraham Joy is an associate professor at the University of Akron. His team talked to police officers on campus about the difficulties of identifying deadly fentanyl and carfentil at the scene of a crime. “It’s quite simple – we’ve taken known reagents that react with controlled substances, and we’ve embedded them together into a polymer fiber mat,” Joy said. “So we are envisioning this to be a product that the officer can wear as gloves, and then by swiping down the surface, it will change color.”
Philip Payne’s Dublin based company Apportis created an app to connect wraparound services such as support groups, social services agencies and even transportation and child care with people with addiction issues – so those people can chat with someone 24 hours a day. “We’ve identified 11 counties that are the ones that are struggling the most,” Payne said. “So we’re going to go down and take a look at the local services, connect with them, make sure they understand what we can offer, allow them to partner, and then they can start putting in their own information so these support groups can utilize our platform and get their information out.”
Dr. Eric Beck is with University Hospitals in Cleveland, and developed a computer-aided way to track patients with opioid prescriptions as they’re leaving health care settings. Beck said when a patient is scheduled to be discharged, the system automatically triggers a conversation with a member of the care transitions team, such as a nurse or social worker. “They engage in a structured, algorithm-driven assessment around the patient’s needs, risks, their preferences. And then it also identifies alternatives that also may be appropriate for the patient’s pain control. Those could include things like acupuncture, massage therapy, or alternatives to opioid prescriptions,” said Beck.
The awards came out of a contest to award $20 million that Gov. John Kasich announced in his State of the State speech last year. David Goodman is the head of the Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers the Third Frontier fund and hired the company that ran the contest. He said the next phase of the contest is underway, with up to five winners be awarded a million dollars each. “Next we’re going to take the ideas that we have, and see if we can find the ones that are going to be the most impactful that we can get to the market as quickly as possible and that can save the most lives,” Goodman said.
The final winners are scheduled to be announced in July – which will be seven months into a new administration. But Goodman said he’s confident the next governor will continue the program.