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January 18, 2017

A-CHESS named semifinalist in Harvard’s 2017 Innovations in American Government Awards competition

Written By: Ascedia -

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government has recognized A-CHESS, a smartphone app for addiction treatment and recovery support, as part of the 100 programs named as semifinalists in the 2017 Innovations in American Government Awards competition.

A-CHESS will compete to be named a finalist in the competition and have the chance to be awarded the $100,000 grand prize in Cambridge in spring 2017.

A-CHESS advanced from a pool of more than 500 applications from all 50 states. The innovations award evaluators selected novel and effective programs that have had significant impact and can be replicated across the country and the world.

A team in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Health Enhancement System Studies led by David Gustafson, an emeritus research professor of industrial and systems engineering at UW-Madison, created the A-CHESS app to help patients with substance use disorders. 
The A-CHESS app has various features that provide this support. For example, it provides access to peer-to-peer messaging and discussion forums among A-CHESS users, offers guided-relaxation audio, and gives users the ability to video-chat with counselors. The app also discourages users from responding to triggers. For example, the GPS system in the smartphone can detect when a patient nears a high-risk location (a bar she used to frequent) and sends an alert asking the patient if she wants to be there.

“These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing,” says Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. “Small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all — what makes government work best is the drive to do better, and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere.”

The semifinalist programs represent a cross-section of jurisdictions and policy areas, and embody one of the most diverse and sophisticated groups that have advanced to this stage in the competition’s 30-year history. They were invited to complete a supplementary application last fall, answering in-depth questions about their work, the process of creating and sustaining their programs, and how they believe they can teach others to do what they do. The Ash Center expects to announce 10 programs that will be named finalists and be invited to Cambridge to present to the Innovation Awards Program’s National Selection Committee in March, with the grand prize winners to be named in June.