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New platform links Delawareans to drug treatment resources

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Shatterproof founder and CEO Gary Mendell fought to control his emotions during the introduction of his company’s new ATLAS addiction treatment platform, which Delaware launched Tuesday as part of a six-state rollout.

Mendell’s son Brian lost his battle with anxiety and addiction, committing suicide in 2011. Mendell said he kept asking himself, “How did I let my son die?” He said he started Shatterproof in hopes that ATLAS “will spare other families the tragedy that my family suffered.”

During the first six months of 2020, 190 Delawareans died from suspected overdoses, according to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science. That is a 47% increase over the first six months of both 2018 and 2019 and state officials say the increase has been influenced by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients finding and sustaining treatment.

The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is offering Delawareans access to ATLAS, which creators say is the first resource of its kind to help those looking for addiction treatment find high-quality and appropriate care.

ATLAS is basically a consumer-facing dashboard that reinforces the importance of patient-experience data. Alongside Delaware, the platform launched in Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and West Virginia on July 21.

State officials said ATLAS will support statewide improvement in the quality of addiction treatment by helping facilities and health care payers such as employers and insurers align market forces with best practices.

“When my family was looking for addiction treatment for my son Brian, the system was impossible to navigate,” Mendell said. “If ATLAS was available then, I believe we could have found evidence-based treatment and my son might be alive today. The last time I saw him, we sat on the back porch and he told me, ‘I’m not a bad person. I’m a good person with a disease. I’m doing my best.”

In a statement, outgoing DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker said state officials are worried about the impact that COVID-19 is having on Delawareans who already are struggling with substance use disorder

“For Delaware families who are trying to navigate treatment services for their loved ones, this new tool from Shatterproof will help them find evidence-based, high-quality care that they can trust,” she said.

Elizabeth Romero | PHOTO C/O DHSS

Visitors to the site answer a 13-question assessment to get suggestions on addiction treatment facilities, with a menu of information on the facility and its services and adherence to best practices. The platform also highlights which facilities keep people engaged in treatment and helps families access the services, particularly given the increasing use of telehealth programs.

“One of our biggest challenges is making sure [Delawareans] have information on the available resources,” said Elizabeth Romero, director of DHSS’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH), who participated in the televised launch.

DSAMH launched the START quality improvement initiative in October 2018 to increase access to care and treatment for individuals living with substance use disorder, Romero told the Delaware Business Times. As part of this initiative, DSAMH began tracking quality and clinical measures for addiction treatment across the state, which it shared with providers to help them improve their services. The partnership with ATLAS helped to enhance these efforts by providing a common set of measures for providers to benchmark themselves against.

Romero said the state is trying to avoid “information overload,” noting that it can be difficult to reach target audiences through   It’s difficult to break through the noise” of platforms such as social media. Delaware is supplementing the ATLAS platform with ongoing efforts to address “social determinants and [reduce] the stigma of addiction and racial equity/social justice issues.

State agencies, health insurers and employers can also use ATLAS to align policies and payment decisions. It enables treatment facilities that voluntarily submit data to benchmark themselves against their peers and design data-driven quality improvement initiatives, making this information transparent to the public in a user-friendly manner. Information is also made transparent to providers, payers, and states in a way that can drive quality improvement.

While all 67 addiction treatment facilities across Delaware are listed on ATLAS, nearly two-thirds of the facilities voluntarily reported on their services and practices. ATLAS also displays feedback from other patients once a minimum threshold of 20 responses per facility is met. This data updates every 24 hours.

The Treatment Facility Survey was fielded in January 2020 in Delaware, with facilities reporting data directly to Shatterproof’s data analytics partner for the pilot project. As of July 21, there have been more than 500 survey responses statewide and visitors can compare the responses for individual facilities to statewide averages. When facilities completed the Treatment Facility Survey, it required verification from the CEO or other senior leader.

In Delaware, individuals and families who are struggling with substance use disorder or mental health issues, can call the 24/7 Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE (1-833-946-7333). Or they can visit HelpIsHereDE.com, DHSS’ clearinghouse website, for a connection to treatment and recovery services and supports in Delaware or nearby states.

Participant after participant in the televised ATLAS launch spoke of the human cost of addiction, including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, who said, “My baby brother just finished serving time for addiction-related crimes. This can happen to every family, including doctors and successful business owners. COVID-19 is exacerbating this problem, and we need to continue to monitor the needs of our most vulnerable populations.”

By Peter Osborne


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