CHESS History

1973 | 1981 | 1987 | 1989 | 2003 | 2007 | 2008 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2014 | 2017 | 2021


Computers as support in crisis

Dr. David H. Gustafson and colleagues develop an interactive program to interview severely depressed people to predict the risk of suicide. They discover that patients in deep personal distress prefer to “talk” openly to a computer rather than a person. This is the first hint for the researchers that computers could support people in crisis.

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Computers for behavior change

The Body Awareness Resources Network (BARN) is created as a computer-based health promotion/behavior change system to support adolescents dealing with health and personal issues. BARN is able to help adolescents change risky behavior much more effectively, in comparison to teens who didn’t have access to the system.

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Multiple services in one system

BARN researchers decide that an effective computer support system for people in health crises would need to offer a wide range of services, such as presenting information in various ways, providing human and emotional support, and offering help in making and implementing difficult decisions. This concept of comprehensive services will inform all future CHESS interventions.

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Introducing the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System

The CHESS team receives funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to develop and pilot test the initial CHESS “shell,” a computer-based health system to help patients and their families become more involved in their treatment. Early CHESS system topics include breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, adult children of alcoholics, stress management, and sexual assault.

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Helping organizations improve healthcare delivery

Todd Molfenter joins CHESS and the study team that develops and launches the NIATx model.

Launched in 2003 with funding from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NIATx (formerly known as the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment) was developed as a simple process improvement model for behavioral health organizations. Since its inception, the NIATx model has been widely adopted by thousands of organizations seeking to enhance access to and retention in treatment for substance use disorders. Over time, the model has evolved to support organizational change not only in addiction treatment but also in mental health services, aging and disability services, and the criminal justice system. Current research initiatives are exploring the use of the NIATx model to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practices, telehealth solutions, and culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

Reducing unnecessary suffering from cancer

CHESS becomes one of only five Centers of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research (CECCR) in the United States. The goal of the first Center (Technology Enhancing Cancer Communications) was to reduce unnecessary suffering from cancer. CECCR projects pioneered interactive cancer communication systems for cancer patients and their families, especially the underserved.

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CHESS goes mobile to help adolescents with asthma

The CHESS framework is used in a smartphone app for the first time. The Mobile CHESS for Pediatric Asthma project is designed to help adolescents manage their asthma. Tools on the app include a medication tracker, an asthma action plan, and videos of other teens talking about their experiences with asthma.

Increasing access to treatment, nationwide and globally

With funding from SAMHSA, the NIATx ACTION Campaign — Adopting Changes to Improve Outcomes Now — is introduced as an 18-month initiative to improve the lives of 55,000 people suffering from substance use disorders who have been unable to access or engage in treatment. Promising practices are created from the NIATx projects and used by organizations to improve access and engagement. More than 5,000 treatment organizations across the globe would take part in the ACTION Campaign and ACTION Campaign II.

First clinical trial to test process improvement in addiction treatment

NIATx 200 brings together 200 treatment providers from four states to study the adoption of specific NIATx process improvement strategies that have improved treatment quality, operations, and finances. Results of the trial showed that clinic-level coaching of NIATx techniques significantly shortened waiting time for people seeking treatment while increasing new patient admissions to treatment.

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Introducing A-CHESS, a smartphone app to prevent relapse

Continuing the Center’s work with predictive analytics, A-CHESS is developed to provide monitoring, information, communication, and support services to patients leaving alcohol treatment. Features of the app include high-risk locators, a panic button, and ways for patients and counselors to stay in contact and intervene if a relapse seems likely. Results from this randomized controlled trial, published in 2014, showed that A-CHESS was able to reduce risky drinking and that a multi-featured smartphone app may have a significant effect on patients in continuing care for alcohol use disorders.

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Adapting to change

NIATx helps behavioral health providers adapt to the changing healthcare landscape through two SAMHSA-funded projects— BHBusiness and the Accelerating Reform Initiative.

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Active Aging Research Center and ElderTree

CHESS researchers, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Institute of Healthy Aging and local county Aging and Disability Resource Centers, develops ElderTree, an information and support system aiming to improve quality of life for older adults. Subsequent studies supported by the National Institutes of Health examine the impact of Elder Tree on older adults coping with multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, those coping with chronic pain, and those seeking to improve functional health using systems delivered on both laptop and voice-controlled smart display technologies.

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Supporting a national network

CHESS is selected to share the role of the Network Coordinating Office for the SAMHSA-funded Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network, intensifying our national reach with a focus on accelerating the implementation of evidence-based practices in substance use disorder treatment.

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Expanding A-CHESS

A series of randomized controlled trials testing adaptations and enhancements of the evidence-based A-CHESS recovery app begins. Studies include a Spanish-language version of CHESS for patients with alcohol use disorder, a bundling of A-CHESS with medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorder, a field study in Appalachia of women with multiple substance use disorders, a project disseminating A-CHESS to treatment providers in Iowa using the NIATx framework, a couples-based version of A-CHESS that incorporates behavioral therapy for people with alcohol use disorder and their romantic partners, and a related version for individuals with alcohol use disorder plus a support person such as a family member or close friend.

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Continued growth in behavioral health professional support

CHESS is awarded funding for cooperative agreements aimed at providing training and support to the behavioral health workforce at regional and national levels, taking the helm as the managing entity for a suite of technical assistance centers, including the SAMHSA-funded Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center, the Great Lakes Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, and the Great Lakes Prevention Technology Transfer Center. In addition, CHESS serves as the Recovery Community Organization partner for the SAMHSA-funded Peer Recovery Center of Excellence.

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Behavioral Health Excellence Technical Assistance Center (BHE-TAC)

In 2021, CHESS received funding from the Health Resources Services Administration to develop and lead the Behavioral Health Excellence Technical Assistance Center in partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Educational Development Corporation. BHE-TAC supports HRSA BHWD grantees at close to 300 academic institutions and organizations that prepare future behavioral health professional and paraprofessionals. The project’s comprehensive suite of services includes training and consulting, virtual training events, online learning, and a range of toolkits, reports, and curriculum products developed by national experts.

Fostering Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) in Justice Populations

This project, led by CHESS and George Mason University’s Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence! is testing strategies to increase the use of medications for opioid use disorder in jails and prisons. The project is comparing two evidence-based coaching approaches: the NIATx model and the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) model.

This study is part of the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN), which is supported by the NIDA/NIH Helping to End Addiction Long Term (HEAL) Initiative.

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