Delaware app helps people locate nearby substance use help

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The HeNN app developed at the University of Delaware provides detailed information about help for those struggling with substance use disorder. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

The HeNN app developed at the University of Delaware provides detailed information about help for those struggling with substance use disorder. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Friends and family looking to help loved ones battling addiction can now access a tool to find treatment and other support.

A collaborative team at the University of Delaware has created an app called HeNN, which stands for Help Near and Now, that aims to provide a single source to connect users to help where they are.

“HeNN gives people a tool to reach out to others, OK, to say for themselves, to find the help they need and to refer others to treatment,” said UD professor Tammy Anderson, who also heads up the university’s Center for Drug and Health Studies on the Newark campus. “To say, ‘Hey, you need education about your son, who is misusing opioids? Here’s where you can find those services.’”

The app, which hit the Apple and Android stores in early March, offers a directory of services to combat substance abuse.

“We have this fabulous network of partnerships with committed state and private industry actors. There’s a lot of people putting good tools out there, and we see HeNN as complementing those efforts,” Anderson said. “The ultimate goals are to reduce substance abuse morbidity and mortality, to be one of the tools that helps do that.”

The HeNN app developed at UD provides detailed information about help for those struggling with substance use disorder. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

About 600 people downloaded the app in the first few months of its release.

A team at the university — including those in the Center for Drug and Health Studies, engineers, and data science experts — started developing the app last fall. “You can find the services, and you can click on the services, you can sort those services by what you want, whether you’re a woman and you want programs that deal with women and children, for example, and you can sort them by how close they are to you, because it’s location-based.”

The app provides information on preventative help, health care resources like prescription drug drop boxes or needle exchanges, residential treatment programs, and recovery support.

Much as an Amazon customer can provide a review of a product, the tool also includes a section where users can rate their experiences with particular providers. “It gives people a chance to rate and comment on the services, so they can learn from each other,” Anderson said. Health care providers can also view customer reviews to evaluate their performance and make improvements if necessary.

Currently, the app is primarily focused on Delaware, but locations in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Maryland will be added soon.

“It’s better to put together a higher-quality, reliable product within a more defined region than to try to expand it too quickly,” she said.

Anderson would like to spread the app nationwide, but there’s a lot of work to do before that happens. In the near future, the app will also provide information on where to find help for mental illness “because the two conditions often coexist with people.”

Anderson will meet with mental health experts and groups that provide care in the coming weeks, to get their details added onto the app.

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