Behaivior AI CEO and founder Ellie Gordon always had an interest in mental health and technology. But at a hackathon in 2017, upon meeting a defense lawyer who recalled how many of his past clients wore alcohol monitoring devices, Gordon wondered what it’d be like if such a device could be used to support a person in recovery, too.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Gordon told Technical.ly, she’d witnessed firsthand how devastating the effects of the opioid epidemic could be. So over the past six years, she’s built a company that offers a wearable device that supports individuals in addiction and mental health recovery.
“I’ve had friends and family who have died from overdose, or substance use and our area was very hard,” Gordon said. “That is something that’s really painful to see.”
Recovery by Behaivior offers AI-powered, real-time support for its users through a wearable device and accompanying app. This might come in the form of remote monitoring capability for care providers, or mental health and addiction self-management tools such as journal and meditation features that can be used in the home. It might also look like the device alerting the appropriate parties should the user need urgent assistance.
Gordon said sometimes when a person is really struggling, it can be difficult for them to reach out for help. Recovery by Behaivior was designed to bring the resources someone in recovery might need directly to them.
“It can be really challenging to sort of take stock of things happening and how they may impact you, along with just being on your own and not necessarily having all the guidance in your day-to-day life,” she said.
Sometimes counselors and care providers might know their clients are struggling, she added, but not always be sure they’re giving the right level of information to provide the best care. With Recovery by Behaivior in the equation, there’s another tool to take in data such as what a person’s stress levels have been or if they’re been sleeping enough, which can be used to suggest the best course of action.
Over the years, the company has collaborated with organizations such as Veteran Affairs, received the Carnegie Science Award and been able to conduct clinical studies supported by the National Institutes of Health. Most recently, the Pittsburgh Technology Council honored Gordon as a new-generation tech entrepreneur. Gordon told Technical.ly she’s happy the company has had the opportunity to collaborate with organizations that serve so many populations, including individuals with PTSD, who experience higher rates of overdose and suicidal ideation and mental health crisis events.
In between the collaborations and trials, Behaivior has received an estimated $1.44 million in grants and prizes from places like URA Ventures, Jumpstart Foundry and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The company now employs 10 people — some in Pittsburgh, but others as far as Colorado and Virginia.
Ultimately, by using artificial intelligence, Gordon said she hopes the tool can assist humans and do something humans can’t do: be there for users 24/7.
“Even if there’s one person and they work with a provider who spends all their time just helping that one person, they’re still not going to be able to gain the insights of prediction of crisis events, for example, to that extent, where things can be actionable and effective,” Gordon said. “Right now, the treatment, as usual, is continuing to lead to high rates of overdose and mental health crises.”
Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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