Web Site Helps Addicts Along with Families in Utah

December 4, 2006
Salt Lake Tribune

Utahns struggling with substance abuse have welcomed a new online tool for overcoming their drug dependence.

A two-month-old Web site, which points addicts to therapy locations and offers advice on escaping addiction, already has amassed more than 300,000 hits.

"We were floored by that," said Jack Tanner, director of the Utah Behavioral Healthcare Network, which launched the site in late September. "Most of the feedback has come from consumers and they're thrilled. Families see it as a great resource."

The site boasts home pages for each county, with area-specific addresses, phone numbers and contacts for substance abuse and mental-health care.

Beyond the location resources, users can tap a library of peer-reviewed articles, with topics ranging from how to stop drinking to helping a friend get treatment.

"[It's] to help people take control of their issues or at least learn how to manage them better until they can get help," said UBHN Research Director Angela Smart. "We hope this will be really user-friendly for people who don't know where things are."

With links to similar sites across a dozen other states, families with addicts living out of state find the site useful, too.

"Once a week I get a phone call from a parent with a child in another state, looking for someone with resources," said Richard Nance, director of Utah County's substance-abuse program. "With this tool, I can give people a Web link and they can find appropriate services."

Addicts and their families aren't the only ones accessing the service. Experts are clicking on it for information on hundreds of medications and questionnaires that help individuals gauge their treatment-need level.

"The site has been built for the client, but it has been used extensively by those in the field that are caring for the client," Smart said.

Promoters are most impressed with a secure folder feature that allows patients to share personal medical information with anyone they want.

"It's the first opportunity where people's mental-health-care givers can talk with their physical-health-care givers," Tanner said. "The doctors on both sides can view the information and better coordinate treatment."

Of course, every new program can bring its hitches.

The inability of participating organizations to customize home pages has frustrated some, explained Boyd Bastian, public-relations coordinator for Salt Lake County Substance Abuse Services.

"In theory, it is a great tool," Bastian said. "In practice, it could be a greater help if it was more flexible. If [site designer] Trilogy becomes more flexible, then, yeah, down the line, we'll be onboard."

Tanner said Trilogy is aware of the concerns and is developing more user-friendly templates.

Despite those snags, traffic to the Web site shows people are getting help -and it's just a mouse click away.

For help with substance abuse or mental-health issues, go to www.networkofcare.org.