FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A nearly $1 million grant will fund Parkview Mirro Center’s research and development of a mental health app in support of addiction services over the next five years.

Totaling $990,015, it’s the largest research grant Parkview has received to date, according to a release from the healthcare system.

The release said Parkview is developing digital tools for use by its peer support specialists, who work directly with clients fighting addictions. The suite of both mobile and web-based applications will be used to foster communication and trust between specialists and their clients, and will also help collect and track additional information about a client’s progress.

“Current mental health applications have not been robustly evaluated in a clinical trial to prove their effectiveness,” said Tammy Toscos, director of Health Services and Informatics Research at the Mirro Center. “The technology we are building will be used immediately to better support addiction services, and some of the methodology we’re using to validate its efficacy might be useful in other studies looking at mental health applications.”

Parkview began designing the technology platform in 2018 after winning the Innovation Challenge hosted by the American Hospital Association. After the project was put on hold to address the immediate needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, initial development began and now the project has expanded to include a clinical trial and other research goals.

“One of the things about this project that makes it unique from a research perspective is that we’re really focusing on outcomes that are important in recovery that you may not think about,” Toscos said in an interview with WANE 15. “You may think about abstinence from use of a drug being the primary outcome, but there are so many other positive outcomes along the way that we’re trapping through the measures that we’re using in the research.”

Parkview’s research is focused on collecting and quantifying data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s definition of recovery. That information will seek evaluations and track progress on categories like a client’s self-care, social relationships, material resources and outlook on life.

Patients may relapse or have setbacks but still be making overall progress toward recovery in ways such as holding steady employment, rebuilding personal relationships and developing a brighter outlook about their future, the release explained. Collecting these factors through Parkview’s technology platform could help connect patients with resources to assist in their recovery.

When the five-year project is complete, Mirro Center researchers plan to test the digital tools with partners from Vanderbilt University, Harvard Medical School, and Northeastern University. The team will analyze the effectiveness, including how and how often clients and specialists use them, how the tools assist in recovery, and what new information collected through the tools may reveal about how to better treat patients battling addiction.

Parkview then plans to share the software so other healthcare organizations, recovery centers or developers can customize it to their needs, according to the release. The grant is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.