A better tool to fight substance abuse

By Sally Crocker

A new article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggests that a computer program called MAPIT, developed by a UNT Health Science Center researcher, is more effective than standard justice system remedies in prompting substance-using probationers and parolees to start their treatment plans.

“Health and justice systems are overburdened in terms of costs and resources,” said Scott T. Walters, PhD, Professor and Chair of Health Behavior and Health Systems at the School of Public Health. “Programs like MAPIT can significantly impact public safety and health without placing additional burdens on the criminal justice system.”

Funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MAPIT uses voice-automated online software to stimulate the desire to begin treatment, set goals and stay motivated in recovery. The program can recognize patterns in how people respond and make suggestions for strategies that might work for them. MAPIT can even send emails or text messages to remind people of their monthly goals

With researchers from George Mason University, Dr. Walters and colleagues compared results from MAPIT to in-person motivational interviewing and standard probation intake processes for prompting individuals toward treatment.

More than 300 probationers in the cities of Dallas and Baltimore participated in the randomized, controlled study. After two months, people who were randomly assigned to MAPIT were more than twice as likely to begin treatment, compared to those routed to standard justice system processes.

Millions of probationers across the United States need substance abuse treatment yet never actually initiate or complete it, Dr. Walters said. In 2015, nearly 25 million adults in the U.S. reported illicit drug use in the prior month, and nearly 65 million reported binge alcohol episodes. Of those in need of treatment, only 14 percent actually started an intervention program.

“The start of probation is a critical time to educate and motivate individuals,” Dr. Walters said. “MAPIT provides a platform for addressing substance use and other high-risk behaviors. Its success shows that a computerized intervention as part of a screening and treatment referral program can improve treatment initiation among substance-using probationers.”

Match Day
Match Day excitement grips TCOM medical students

By Jan Jarvis   The anticipation kept Vincent Wang awake all night. “It’s like Christmas,” the fourth-year medical student said. “You know you’re getting a present, but you don’t know what it is.” Wang was among 213 Texas of College of Osteopathic Medicine fourth-year ...Read more

Mar 20, 2018

Sara Bryd
Public health student to bike across Africa for medical, educational mission

By Sally Crocker   Sara Byrd is looking forward to UNT Health Science Center graduation day for two very big reasons. After crossing the stage in cap and gown at this spring’s commencement ceremonies, the School of Public Health MHA graduate will board a plane for Africa. There she w...Read more

Mar 19, 2018

TCOM Students
Student-led charity golf tournament reaches endowment goal

By Alex Branch   In 2012, medical students Sammy Lee Chong and Nicole Hocevar Howerton helped brainstorm ideas for students to work together for a good cause outside the classroom. They started Tee Off F.O.R.E. TCOM, a golf tournament that raised money for student scholarships at UNT H...Read more

Mar 16, 2018

Gemma Sookprasong
TCOM student’s rocky road to Match Day

By Jan Jarvis   Last fall, Gemma Sookprasong flew to Wichita, Kan., for an interview that could lead to a medical residency at a hospital there. She never made it to the interview, but she did end up at that hospital. “I woke up in a trauma bay,” she said. The car accident th...Read more

Mar 14, 2018