Confidential Virtual Addiction Treatment for Healthcare Workers

This project will provide healthcare workers with access to confidential virtual care and evidence-based treatment options for substance use

Project Budget*- $1.2M

Partner Co-investment - $0.4M

Supercluster Co-investment - $0.8M

Project Partners

Project Overview

COVID-19 comes with multiple health concerns for Canadians and especially for the front-line health care workers battling the disease. Outside of the risks from the disease itself, one of the biggest challenges stems from the isolation, increased stress, and anxiety layered on top of the ongoing opioid crisis.

Signs of increased substance use disorders (SUD) have already been detected in the wake of COVID-19 and there is significant concern among employers and unions that SUD prevalence could increase among health care workers as a result of the unprecedented demands they are currently facing. In addition, health care workers with SUDs may experience barriers to disclosure and treatment, resulting from compounded feelings of stigma and guilt associated with working in a helping profession.

The Confidential Virtual Addiction Treatment for Health Care Workers project will help tackle these challenges through access to confidential virtual care and evidence-based treatment options for substance use issues.

The project is led by ALAViDA in collaboration with Fraser Health Authority, the BC Nurses Union, the Hospital Employees’ Union, the Health Sciences Association of BC, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Benefits By Design, Pacific Blue Cross, and the Healthcare Benefit Trust. Each project participant is committed to supporting health care workers during these extraordinarily challenging times.

The platform will have a confidential, digital treatment program powered by an AI companion that engages with individuals. It builds trust and educates users about key evidence-based strategies to reduce the harms associated with problematic use of drugs and alcohol. Workers interact using their smartphone for a 15 to 90 days period, depending on their care needs.

The programming will focus on specific challenges faced by health care workers – an approach that can be adapted for other employee groups in future. And being virtual, the support is available anywhere.

Stigma and inaccessibility are barriers to SUD treatment. This initiative aims to remove those barriers. The platform is a non-judgmental, positive space for working proactively on SUD solutions. Access is not restricted to only those workers who are on disability leave or experiencing problems at work or at home. The treatment program is an opportunity for prevention or early and effective intervention. And for workers seeking additional or more intensive care, the platform serves as a connection point to a suite of client-centered options, including pharmacotherapy and specialized counselling.

The project will also measure the impact that an AI companion can have as a form of peer support for substance use disorder, and big data will measure treatment outcomes. This research can be applied to the opioid crisis as well by offering new tools and best practices in virtual healthcare.

The hope is the platform built and refined for health care workers can be adapted into other employee benefit plans to expand the adoption of pre-disability substance use disorder treatments to the wider population.

*amounts at time of project selection

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