Texas behavioral health clinic expands access to telehealth through mobile app


Boram Kim


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and its Be Well Texas project, a provider network devoted to treating substance use disorder (SUD) in the state, last week made its mobile app WEconnect Recovery available for free download to all Texans struggling with substance abuse and mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues.


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WEconnect Health Management is the technology company behind the development of the Be Well Texas mobile application and others of its kind, which take an innovative approach to addiction recovery. The app enables users to earn rewards through tracking and completing support and self-care activities. Users are incentivized to create habits that are conducive to recovery, taking part in daily sponsor meetings led by peer staff.

UT Health San Antonio plans to expand adoption of the app through its behavioral health clinical services through an integrated approach that lets patients dictate when and where they receive treatment and the level of engagement that best supports their individual needs.

More than 750,000 participants across the country have taken part in mobile recovery meetings, which are virtual support check-ins with peers and counselors aimed at managing lapses. Researchers say the app is leveraging technology to address behavioral health challenges. A 6-month 2019 study of 190 Pennsylvania Medicaid members in 2019 showed that use of the WEconnect app was associated with a 35% higher adherence in filling medication-assisted treatment (MAT) prescriptions and a 76% higher rate of primary care provider (PCP) engagement.

Supported by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission through state and federal funding from grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Be Well Texas clinic and its innovative mobile interface are exemplary of three health trends exacerbated by the pandemic: a dwindling workforce, the behavioral health crisis, and digital health technology, the latter of which is being quickly developed and utilized to address the growing supply and demand discrepancy between labor and care.

UT Health San Antonio operates a Be Well Texas clinic that offers low-barrier, convenient access to evidence-based treatment through statewide telehealth and recovery support services for its patients by virtual or in-person appointments.

Services offered through on-demand telemedicine include:

  •         Medication Management
  •         Evidence-based Counseling (Individual and Family)
  •         Medication Assisted Treatment
  •         Peer Recovery Support
  •         Case Management

Congress has appropriated billions in federal funding to states for behavioral health-related activities over the course of the pandemic as well as in a series of supplemental measures—such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.

Texas is allocated some $4.5 billion for behavioral health measures in FY 2022-2023, with the Department of Health and Human Services Commission being appropriated the largest portion at $3.38 billion. Texas ranked last in the nation for overall access to mental health care in the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.

According to a recent report by Vantage Market Research, digital health was a $145.57 billion market in 2021. The global digital health market size is expected to reach $430.52 billion by 2028, expanding at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.9% from 2022 to 2028.

Speaking on the “Modernizing the behavioral health system” panel at the 2022 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference in February, Senior Vice President of Integrated Behavioral Health at UpHealth Sarah Arnquist, who works on behavioral health delivery applications, highlighted the importance of leveraging data and technology infrastructure to finance, deliver, and monitor care as a holistic solution.

“Providers feed the system so much information. We need to make sure providers are getting that information back in a meaningful way that allows them to help improve care delivery, and making sure consumers and family members are engaged,” said Arnquist. “At UpHealth, a core part of what we do is language interpretation and translation. We want to make sure that language interpretation and translation are embedded across all of our platforms as sort of a first offering, not an afterthought, so that an individual can get services in their preferred language whenever they want to.”