Delaware partners with Google to make searching for addiction treatment easier

Excerpt from a data poster on drug overdoses in Delaware (Courtesy of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services)

Excerpt from a data poster on drug overdoses in Delaware (Courtesy of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services)

When Doug Salter and his wife, Dee, wanted to find addiction resources for their son eight years ago, they didn’t know where to go for help.

So they turned to the internet.

“You don’t know who to talk to, you think you’re the only person out there dealing with this. So you go online and look things up,” Salter said.

“Eight years ago,” he said,  information about addiction “wasn’t as predominant as it is nowadays. And we just really didn’t have any idea. The first time we went through the rehab, we figured this would be a one-time thing, spend whatever we have to, he’ll come out and be fine — and, obviously we had a lot of learning to do.”

The couple spent $4,000 a month on an aftercare facility they were told was the best option for their son. But when they visited, they learned he shared a 12-foot-by-12-foot room with five other people who slept on bunk beds.

Salter hopes a new collaboration between the state of Delaware and Google will make searching for local addiction treatment resources easier and help families find the best quality care for their loved ones.

(Courtesy of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services)

Google will work to increase search rankings and provide a direct link to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids when Delawareans search for resources. It will provide $500,000 to the Partnership, which is also participating in the new pilot program, as well as technical assistance to the state.

“In Delaware, the second-most-utilized way in which people get to treatment besides word-of-mouth is the internet,” said Elizabeth Romero, director of Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Last year, there were 400 overdose deaths in the state,  up 16% from 2017.

State residents rank in the Top 10 in the nation for using Google to search for information on substance use. They also search “methadone” — one medication used to stave off opioid withdrawal — more than residents of any other state.

Yet Delaware residents aren’t reaching state websites offering information on treatment resources at the same rate, Romero said.

“We realized a partnership for Google would be really critical to ensure that when people search for information at the moment they need it, they get the right information to take that right step forward,” she said.

The state’s addiction resources website, HelpIsHereDE.com, averaged 128 daily visits between March and July. But when a paid media campaign launched in August, visits rose to an average of 673 a day. Romero said she hopes the partnership with Google will spark similar results.

“This result demonstrates through public awareness efforts more Delawareans are able to connect with the services they need. We need to make sure we’re connecting people to those sites,” she said.

Salter said he hopes the collaboration will ensure that families and individuals struggling with addiction won’t face the same challenges his family did when first learning about options.

“There’s a lot of places out there that are taking people’s money and telling them they’re trying to help. There are a lot of good ones, don’t get me wrong. And this partnership will be a huge benefit [to those] trying to find the right care,” he said.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more options, you will have people commenting on places, letting them know the good and bad.”

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