Our screening, education and intervention framework is meant to identify risky behaviors in everyday language, in a staged progression so that young people can identify with them earlier. Given that ¾ of mental health and substance abuse issues start before age 24, more needs to be done to identify behaviors that come BEFORE an addiction, in a way that students can relate to them and understand the real impacts much earlier on in the process.
Using “patient journey mapping” research techniques with youth in recovery from addiction, we are identifying discrete everyday behaviors “on the ramp to addiction” as told by young people, using their own language. We will map these discrete behaviors into a staged progression. This staged progression will be used for self-assessment and education purposes with youth to augment school the SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) effort being mandated in many states. Our recovery student co-designers ALL say they were educated much earlier on about this progression, and they are eager to tell their stories to prevent others from experiencing the same painful trajectory.
So much of the effort in dealing with addiction, and especially in response to the opioid crisis, is addressing the issue at stage 4 when it is much more difficult to have a sustained recovery. Our co-designers will communicate their trajectory and real life consequences of progressive substance misuse in such a way that their peers will recognize those same behaviors and get off the ramp to addiction. This will be packaged in an app using evidence based motivational interviewing and goal setting techniques that serve to uncover the young person’s own reasons and strategies to stop or cut down their substance use. We are currently seeking funding for this project.
Our goal is to "think differently" about how behavioral health disorders can be prevented, diagnosed early, and/or managed to improve quality of life and reduce healthcare costs. As part of our ongoing work we are always tracking new care models, clinical research, and technologies that can be applied to substance use, anxiety and depression. Some areas of particular interest are technologies that can AUGMENT clinician efforts – such as predictive analytics, digital screening and treatment tools, precision medicine, mobile applications, online communities, virtual reality education, digital biomarkers, and more.
While we prefer face to face contact there are several obstacles to getting treatment for behavioral health disorders
Digital tools can be used in the privacy of your own home 24x7. Anywhere, anytime screening tools, stories from young people themselves via multimedia, and treatment modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and tele-psychiatry are all examples of digital tools that address some of these obstacles. These modalities can be the “on ramp” to face to face treatment modalities and can provide solutions where capacity and access is limited.
My ChoIce MATTERs Youth Summit was held at the Cape Cod Community College. 70+ students attended from local schools including: Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, Dennis-Yarmouth High School, Lighthouse Charter School, Mashpee Middle-High School, Monomoy Middle & High School and Wayside Academy. The theme of the day was “Dreams Not Drugs.” In small, age-appropriate groups youth were engaged by facilitators in interactive and experiential learning activities and participated in discussions about choosing health behaviors to reduce substance use. Students in recovery from opioid use disorder came from Rockdale Recovery High School and delivered peer messages and answered questions during the Recovery Panel. Slam poet Matt Ganem closed out the day with a power performance about his path to addiction and the impact it has had on his life.
Education curriculum, highly interactive exercises, and facilitator training guide were created in support of this event. This day-long summit was co-designed with students in recovery. The small groups were led by facilitators. This event is now available for other school systems.
But Don’t Listen to Us ... Hear What the Students Had to Say ...
Did anything you learned today change your mind about using drugs or drinking?
✓ Yes. “Long term effects” - Cape Cod Regional Technical
School- 9th grader
✓ Yes. “Drugs ruined my life” - Monomoy High School- 12th grader
✓ Yes. “How careful you have to be” - Dennis-Yarmouth -11th grader
✓ Yes. “Nicole” - (Nicole is a Rockdale Recovery High School student panelist). Dennis-Yarmouth -11th grader
✓ Yes. “Mostly, knew a lot of it, but listening to their stories showed the real side of abuse”- Dennis-Yarmouth -11th grader
✓ Yes. “Don’t use there is no way back” - Dennis-Yarmouth -11th grader
✓ Yes. “A lot about marijuana” - Dennis-Yarmouth -10th grader
✓ Yes. “Just listening to their stories” - Dennis-Yarmouth - 9th grader
✓ No. “The reason being my family has users and those in recovery so I’ve seen it firsthand” - Dennis-Yarmouth -9th grader
✓ Yes. “It could lead to addiction and depression”- Monomoy- 8th grader
✓ Yes. “How fast you can get addicted to drugs” - Monomoy- 8th grader
✓ Yes. “Just because a doctor approved a drug does not mean it’s completely safe” - Monomoy- 7th grader
✓ Yes. “It can affect your future”- Monomoy- 7th grader
✓ Yes. “The major thing that changed my perspective on drugs was the large amount of people doing it at a young age” - Mashpee- 8th grader
✓ No. “I know many alcoholics so I made my mind up a while ago I wouldn’t drink or use” - Mashpee- 8th grader
✓ Yes. “Drinking is even worse than I thought”- Lighthouse Charter- 8th grader
✓ Yes. “How it is bad for you”-Lighthouse Charter- 6th grader
✓ Yes. “It showed me how much using and drinking can affect me”-Lighthouse Charter- 6th grader
What was the favorite part of the day for you?
✓ Human Body Map
✓ Q Á A
✓ Push Taxi game
✓ Learning about good ways to refuse drugs
✓ Playing Games
✓ “Knock- Out” Coping Strategies Game
✓ Thumper- Name Game
✓ Slam Poet and All the Group activities
✓ Meeting new people
✓ The Panel (of students in recovery)
✓ Listening to everyone’s stories and recovery
✓ Hearing from Andy
This prevention initiative came about when young people in recovery from addiction begged us to give them the chance to speak directly to their peers. Our intention is to amplify their voices, bringing awareness to the risky behaviors on the pathway to addiction in order to interrupt the trajectory and prevent young people from becoming addicted to substances. These “peer heroes” talk about their experiences dealing with depression, anxiety and substance use in the hopes they can bring awareness to unhealthy behaviors, and inspire their peers. By better understanding of mental health and substance misuse issues, we hope to motivate young people to choose healthy behaviors, and to seek help for themselves or loved ones, if needed.
Our interviews with 70 experts, individuals, families, and clinicians provided incredible insights for addressing the opioid epidemic from a broad industry wide perspective. Working for the Massachusetts Service Alliance, part of the Corporation for National Community Service we were tasked with identifying what was working to address the opioid epidemic; and identifying the gaps that represent opportunities for impact. Interviewing 70 thought leaders from a broad range of behavioral health and treatment sectors allowed us to identify best practices programs and gaps for prevention through treatment and sustained recovery. BHI then conducted an asset scan, and identified possible organizations doing work in the opioid recovery industry that might benefit from additional capacity of 20 AmeriCorps members.
BHI partnered with Mad*Pow to co-host a solution co-design workshop with students in recovery. We wanted to understand their journeys, hear about their dreams, get insights on where interventions would have helped them earlier in the process, what triggered their decision to seek help, what they’ve gotten back now that they are in recovery. We’ve held multiple journey mapping and solutions co-design sessions with students in recovery with the intention of creating a staged framework called RAMPTM
BHI partnered with Drug Story Theater and the Zeiterion Theater to bring a school and community based performance to Southeastern MA. Students in recovery delivered an improv theater performance about their journey to, and recovery from, addiction. The performance led to one of the most amazing community discussions around the issues of substance use, addiction and community connection. The student actors answered questions from students and community members. We believe the power of peer voices is the most underutilized asset in the field of behavioral health, and performances such as Drug Story Theater where students can hear directly from their peers is an example of a program that has the ingredients to change behaviors.
High School students supported those in recovery with messages of hope and inspiration. Behavioral Health Innovators invited schools and the recovery community to create artwork in any medium they chose – videos, drawings, slam poetry, photography, and more. This is a link to a video created by high school students at Dartmouth High School. Their video titled Time Wasted was based on a powerful poem called Wasted Time which was written by an anonymous young person in recovery. Prayer flags were also created by Dartmouth (MA) High School students and young people at the Boys and Girls Club of New Bedford.