Mass Innovations, From The Beacon, June 2019

A screenshot of the app that lists Worcester resources for mental health support, housing, and substance use

The Stigma Free Worcester app provides a one-stop shop for substance abuse and mental health resources in the area.

Following a year-long collaboration with students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the city has launched an app that holds a host of addiction, substance abuse and mental health care resources and access information, including connections to clinics, hospitals, housing and shelters, food and clothing, and events held by the city’s Health Department.

“We’ve been looking at the opioid piece for a while and the huge stigma associated with it,” said Dr. Matilde Castiel, commissioner of health and human services. “How do we make it easier for anyone to get treatment?”
The answer was a readily accessible piece of technology.

“There are booklets out there with this information, but people don’t walk around with a pamphlet in their hands,” Castiel said. “The one thing that everyone carries is their phone.”

The Health and Human Services Department already had a partnership with area colleges that had resulted in a number of projects, Castiel said.

“The talent we have in our universities, and to be able to work side-by-side, is great,” she said.

The city’s Health and Human Services and Technical Services departments worked with two groups of WPI students over the past year to design and build the Stigma Free Worcester app to operate on iOS and Andriod platforms, and to gather all of the information for the app. Students also developed the marketing of the app, often taking the time to visit with municipal departments, like fire and police, as well as recovery and community groups, to show people how to get and use the app.

Management of the app and the information it contains will be a collaboration between the city departments and students.

“This project represents a tangible result of a true community partnership, which is a win-win situation for all involved,” said City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. “The city, the Department of Health and Human Services, Technical Services, WPI and, maybe most importantly, the community.”

For more information, contact the Department of Health and Human Services at 508-799-8486.

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