Ohio Awards $4 Million For Opioid Crisis Solutions

Aug 28, 2019
Originally published on August 27, 2019 7:54 pm

Three small companies and University Hospitals in Cleveland will be receiving $1 million each for products they created to help fight opioid abuse with technology.

It’s the final stage of a unique state-sponsored contest to find new ways to use tech to battle opioid addiction.

When John Konsin received word that his company won a million dollars, he says he kinda lost it.

“I pretty much cried for a minute and a half when I got the call that we had won the challenge. It was a remarkable event because it changed everything with the trajectory of our company," Konsin says.

Konsin’s company Prapela makes pads to put in cribs or bassinettes of infants suffering from opioid withdrawal.

“It’s a random, gentle vibration that, when it is processed by the infant’s brain, during that processing, it boosts breathing and heart rate to healthy rhythmic ranges and when babies breathe more  rhythmically in a healthy range and their heart is more rhythmic in a healthy range, they relax," Konsin says.

Konsin says this money will allow his Massachusetts company to hire employees in Ohio who can help develop the product further and bring it to market. Konsin is among four winners of the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, a contest sponsored by Ohio’s Third Frontier program to find high tech solutions to the state’s deadly opioid crisis. 

This is the final phase of the challenge, which began two years ago with $20 million committed by former Gov. John Kasich. These companies were among a dozen that won $200,000 each last year.

Another winner is University Hospitals of Cleveland, which received a $1 million award for its app intended to prevent misuse and addiction in patients being discharged. Dr. Eric Beck says it’s a tracking technology of sorts.

“Think of this as a surveillance and navigation tool. So it allows us to be able to put workflows into place, to ask very specific questions that can trigger needs matching of resources or support to identify risks and to support patients based on that risk level then to make those linkages with resources that the patients actually need," Beck says.

Beck says this award provides seed money so the project can expand to more hospitals.

The other two winners have projects to help people in recovery. Eric Gastfriend is with DynamiCare Health from Boston. He explains his company’s phone based app pulls together multiple components.

“We have remote substance testing through the app using breath and saliva tests over selfie video. We have appointment tracking using GPS check ins. We have a smart debit card to reward people for staying sober and staying in treatment," Gastfriend says.

Oona Krieg is the COO of Brave Technology of Vancouver, which won the million for a button installed in homes. It can be pressed to call emergency help in case of overdose or for support for people struggling with their addiction. Krieg says this money will allow the company to work here in Ohio.

“We’ll be here for the next two years guaranteed with that. We look forward to investing our time and this resource to be able to actually prevent overdose death in Ohio," Krieg says.

Kevin Andrews is with Nine Sigma, which managed the challenge. He says a panel of five judges with medical, addiction treatment and product commercialization backgrounds chose the million-dollar winners from a dozen projects that were already in development. He says the winners collaborated with local and state resources and even with each other.

“It touches so many people that everybody has a stake in the solution and a desire to see something happen that will make life better for folks," Andrews says.

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health show Andrews is right about that. In 2017, Ohio had nearly 4,300 overdose deaths, almost 13 a day. That’s the second highest rate in the nation.

Copyright 2019 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.