RWJF Opioid Challenge: You Can Help

Chelsea Polaniecki


Opioid overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old. In fact, the majority of drug overdose related deaths involve an opioid. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have more than quadrupled since 1999. The U.S. is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic, as more than 2 million Americans have become dependent on, or abused prescription pain pills and street drugs. Substance misuse is not only affecting the users but also their families, friends, and the healthcare system as a whole.

Although improvements have been made to the way opioids are prescribed through clinical practice guidelines, the epidemic has continued to grow. The CDC has made several efforts to combat substance misuse and overdose but there is much more to be done, and you can help. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to supporting those affected by this issue and launched the RWJF Opioid Challenge live, at Health 2.0’s Wintertech conference in January 2018. This innovation challenge calls for tech-enabled solutions that help identify resources, facilities, and educational content for support, as well as platforms for connecting patients, caregivers and peers for peer community.

RWJF has teamed up with Catalyst @ Health 2.0 to identify and incentivize the development of  tech-enabled solutions that should aim to support affected individuals (e.g. opioid users, caregivers, peers, family, etc.) and connect them to relevant resources. Every individual faces a different set of challenges, meaning that needs for recovery can be unique and varied.* The challenge is calling on innovators, developers, entrepreneurs and other bright minds to create tools to support those affected by opioid misuse.

In Phase I of the challenge, innovators will develop and design tech-enabled solutions. The judges, who bring a wide range of expertise to the table, will evaluate the submissions to determine the five teams who will move onto Phase II. These finalists will be awarded $5,000 each to create a fully functional application or tool. The finalists will also have an opportunity to demo their technology in front of a captivated audience of 2,000 investors, provider organizations, health plans and members of the media at the Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference! With $100,000 in total prizes, we encourage innovators to put their best foot forward and create innovative solutions that will help impact the lives of those affected by opioid misuse.

Check out the challenge website to learn more and pre-register to apply to the RWJF Opioid Challenge by March 22nd. Join the fight today and help support and connect those individuals and their families affected by opioid misuse.

*This is not an exercise to develop tools for specific disease interventions or technologies for clinical therapy decision-making.

Chelsea Polaniecki is a Program Manager and Chanly Philogene is an Intern at Catalyst @ Health 2.0.

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3 replies »

  1. Well-written, thanks for the post. The new innovative solution like patient referral management will help providers refer patient history, monitor referrals. It is important to monitor opioid use for your patients.

  2. Hi William, thank you for your comment. The tools are meant to be geared toward those affected by opioid misuse, however not meant to be clinical, or digital therapy focused. Please view the challenge website at opioidchallenge.com for more information on qualifying solutions.

  3. Please clarify. Give examples of your thinking. You want tools to help those “affected by opioid misuse” but you don’t want tools for “specific disease interventions or therapy decision-making”.