On September 1, a Birmingham company launched the first app-driven remote monitoring service for narcotics use. "It allows you to be tested where you are," says Liz Read, founder and CEO of ClearMINDnow. "That's part of the randomness to an effective monitoring program."
The system centers around a phone app and a testing kit about the size of a #10 envelope. Several times a month, the app randomly pings the recovering addict with a text message to take a test within a specified amount of hours. "All you need is your phone, a Wi-Fi or cell signal, and a test packet," Read says.
The test takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, fitting the timeframe of a typical work break. The app, which guides the user through every step, begins by triggering the video screen that initializes facial recognition to verify the identity of the person holding the phone. The entire saliva-based test is videoed.
The user places the test stick in his mouth to absorb saliva for about five minutes. Then she inserts the stick into a small test cube which detects the metabolites present. The app displays the positive or negative result and sends that outcome to the person's monitoring partner and a supporter of their choice.
"That's when the balance of forces comes into play," Read says. "The immediate awareness by others invested in the person's recovery creates accountability. The monitoring partner might be a treatment center case manager, therapist, or even an attorney. The supporter is usually a loved one. In the app, you and your supporters can see all your testing history. You can build up a great documentation of clear tests."
A person would obviously fail the test if a substance is detected, but it is also considered a fail if they decline to test, miss a test, or if they don't follow the instructions needed to maintain a chain of custody. "There are certain things you have to follow in our protocol in order for your test to be viable," Read says. "That's really key. Because if we're going to help families rebuild trust, they have to trust our process."
The results not only rely on the testing cube for the chemical analysis, but also get interpreted by AI in the cloud. "And we have humans who review the video that we've taken of you testing to verify the results," Read says.
ClearMINDNow chose saliva testing for its convenience, cost, and because it is difficult to cheat. "It's impossible to adulterate your saliva while someone is watching you take it," Read says, unlike a urinalysis which can be tainted even while being monitored by ingesting certain substances beforehand that throw off the chemical results or by simply overhydrating.
To ascertain whether their protocol could be duped, ClearMINDNow asked known drug test deceivers to try and fool the test. "They helped us develop something that we feel is impossible to cheat, as far as we know," Read says.
Cost was also a driving factor for Read, since actively recovering addicts need up to five or more tests a month. Choosing to use saliva testing, which became available a few years ago, makes the frequent testing realistically affordable.
While a urinalysis runs $60 to over $100 per test, the ClearMINDNow program costs $30 per test. "And you get everything you need," Read says, including the app, test kit and results, as well as a phone stand and testing mat, along with auto-sharing of the results, the engagement of the supporters, in-app education, and a wellness plan. That personalized plan lists the consequences unique to that person if they falter, as well as the rewards, like more visitation time with children or continuing financial support, for staying clean.
At this time, the service officially is only available to people who are coming out of the area treatment centers that are currently partnering with ClearMindNow. "But it will be available to everyone later on," Read says. "In about six to nine months, the app will also direct members to the nearest lab should that be needed. We will offer ways to do lab confirmation with saliva and urine through onsite lab partners."
"Ultimately, the intent of our service is to provide monitoring that empowers people," Read says. "Testing should not feel like a punishment. We want to make it easy and dignified."