Alphabet’s experimental health unit takes on the opioid epidemic

Alphabet’s experimental healthcare unit Verily plans to partner with hospitals in Ohio on a tech-heavy approach for treatment of substance abuse disorders.

Verily said on Tuesday that it will help launch an independent not-for-profit called OneFifteen that plans to set up an addiction treatment facility in Dayton with housing and a behavioral health treatment center.

The idea is to apply Verily’s data-centric approach to addiction, using analytics to improve care by gleaning insight over time from operational and clinical data. Samaritan Behavioral Health, a subsidiary of Premier Health, will work with Verily to provide clinical care for the project. Kettering Health Network is also a partner.

Verily’s plan to tackle mental health and addiction is but the latest of Alphabet’s forays into healthcare and life sciences. Through Verily and other branches of the company, Google parent Alphabet has explored eradicating mosquito-borne disease, artificial-intelligence applications for healthcare and the molecular mechanisms of aging. The company has hired former Geisinger Health Chief Executive Officer David Feinberg to oversee Google Health.

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“A team of Verily clinicians, engineers and health systems specialists undertook an assessment of the opioid crisis and uncovered a complex set of challenges that touched nearly every facet of our society,’’ Verily said in a blog post. “We recognized that a common thread through these challenges was the absence of high-quality information to guide individuals, communities and legislators to adopt treatment models that they are confident will support prevention and recovery.’’

Taking on the opioid epidemic may be the company’s most ambitious undertaking yet. Opioid overdoses were tied to about 50,000 U.S. deaths in 2017. Ohio is ranked among the top five states for opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the National Institutes of Health, with more than double the national rate.

The new facility in Dayton will begin seeing patients this spring. A full healthcare campus is expected to be completed in 2020.