Digital therapy treatments give RIT researchers tools to reach rural communities in N.Y. and N.H.

Chris Coe

Cory Crane, associate professor in RIT’s Department of Clinical Health Professions.

Rochester Institute of Technology behavioral health researchers are providing remote mental health care and addiction therapy to rural communities in New York and New Hampshire and training for therapists to deploy the digital treatments at their clinics.

The digital tools developed by RIT deliver motivational therapy and teach coping skills using telehealth, customizable digital coaches, and 3D simulations showing the effect of drugs and alcohol on the brain, heart, and lungs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded RIT a nearly $2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to support the program. The funding enables RIT researchers to expand their digital treatments and continue the project, which began in 2020.

The epidemic of fatal drug overdoses in the United States broke a record in 2021 with more than 100,000 deaths—a 28.5 percent increase from 2020, according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health and Statistics. High rates of addiction in rural communities have created a need for more services.

“Our team is poised to reach people in rural upstate New York and New Hampshire who lack access to treatment for substance use disorders and mental health conditions,” said Cory Crane, associate professor in RIT’s Department of Clinical Health Professions and project lead. “We can use our digital therapy suite to reduce barriers to treatment and deliver care to vulnerable communities.”

RIT’s outreach to rural and underserved communities in New York and in New Hampshire addresses opioid addiction and other forms of substance abuse and co-occurring mental health conditions. Residents of New York’s Genesee County, Wyoming County, and Cayuga County, and New Hampshire’s Grafton County may be eligible for the federally funded program.

The participating clinical sites were selected through RIT’s strategic alliance with Rochester Regional Health and a new partnership with Ammonoosuc Community Health Services in New Hampshire.

RIT’s Priority Behavioral Health team includes Crane, Professor Caroline Easton, and research faculty member Cassandra Berbary. According to Easton, the Priority Behavioral Health and Clinical Psychology Internship program is the second largest graduate pre-doctoral training program accredited by the American Psychological Association. The program, which began in 2016 with four interns, will grow to 25 new interns in July 2023. The program is housed within RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology.

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