BILLINGS — Mental health professionals in Billings have seen good anecdotal results since March after utilizing a text messaging app designed to interrupt relapse behavior in people with substance use disorders.
"Crisis doesn't happen Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our clients often need us after hours. And peer support is available to them 24 hours per day, seven days a week so that they don't have to deal with those triggers alone," said Annette Redding, director of peer support services at Rimrock Foundation in Billings.
During an event at the Double Tree hotel in Billings on Tuesday, local mental health professionals and some of Montana's state and federal politicians praised the rollout of a new program called, recovery pathways.
The program was born from a partnership with three entities: Rimrock Foundation and Substance Abuse Connect Coalition in Billings, along with New Jersey-based behavioral science tech company, GoMo Health.
“This amazing technology was born out of a meeting with a group of desperate stakeholders and elected officials asking what we were doing to address the civil disruption that our community was having directly relating to the out-of-control substance use," said Rimrock Foundation CEO Lenette Kosovich.
Cell phone text messages are at the center of the recovery pathways app. It acts as an added digital component to conventional therapy programs. It interacts with mental health professionals, their clients, and client's families to interrupt behaviors or feelings that might lead to relapse.
“We are constantly asking the users in the technology how they are feeling, how they are doing. Before they appear in court, are they nervous? And based on what they say, it actually pings their counselor at Rimrock right away who can address their issues. That stops them from ruminating and helps them toward their path to recovery," said GoMo Health founder Bob Gold.
Gold said the recovery pathways program will make its way to more communities across Montana and the country.
A person who gave their first name as Robert at the event shared their experience as a person in drug court in Billings who used the recovery pathways app. Robert said it helped them be able to reconnect with their two sons, aged five and three.
"This program actually has shown me how to be an adult and strengthen those relationships that I tossed to the wind beforehand," Robert said.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said the recovery pathways program will save lives in Montana.
“This is really meaningful work. There is no doubt it will save lives in our state and across the country as it is rolled out and I’m looking forward to seeing the results and it couldn’t have come at a more important time," Gianforte said.
Gianforte shared some statistics about drug abuse in Montana. He said the Department of Public Health and Human Services estimates 64,000 Montanans suffer from substance abuse disorder. Montana also has the second-highest population of kids in foster care per capita, 44 percent of which is due to methamphetamine, Gianforte said.
With the proliferation of more programs like recovery pathways more Montanans will gain access to the help they need and help fix two problems brought about at the state level due to addiction, Gianforte said.
"One, a workforce shortage in the field, and two, access to services to those struggling with addiction. Taken together, these efforts will help Montanans prepare to successfully reenter communities, reunite with their family, friends, and neighbors," Gianforte said.