Hands holding a mobile phone

UA Develops Behavioral Health App for State

Finding reliable information on behavioral health services and treatment in Alabama can be difficult, especially for those reaching out for help for the first time.

Working with several state agencies and nonprofit organizations, researchers and social work experts at The University of Alabama gathered all education, information and services related to substance use, mental health and prevention for an easy-to-use app that instantly provides access to the resources people need to take the next step.

The Connect Alabama app was created through the VitAL initiative in the UA School of Social Work and funded through a partnership with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“We believe this mobile health application will contribute to users’ behavioral health literacy on mental health and substance use disorders and will assist Alabamians to make more informed decisions on the range of services offered by the state and its certified providers,” said Dr. David L. Albright, UA Distinguished Research Professor, Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health Research in social work and VitAL principal investigator.

Users can access information in the app without having to be connected to the internet or cellular data services.

“Connect Alabama is an important tool, offering fast and reliable service to someone looking for help. It may take an individual many years to simply reach out for help with mental health issues or a substance use disorder,” said Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Kimberly Boswell. “We need as many avenues as possible for an individual to seek treatment and information, when they are ready to take the next step toward recovery.”

The initial idea came from team members of VitAL, which oversees multiple state-focused behavioral health projects that strive to study and improve services, policies and social conditions for those with mental health, substance use disorder and trauma-related challenges. The VitAL team currently works with community and organizational stakeholders in all of Alabama’s 67 counties.

“Several years ago, we realized quickly that accessibility to information was just not there in the community,” said Shanna McIntosh, VitAL Director. “We saw a need through the research and our community outreach and engagement for an easy-to-access and comprehensive solution. It would take a lot of Google searches and access to published papers to get the information available through the app.”

Through its strong working relationship with ADMH and other state agencies such as the Department of Public Health, VitAL put together a team of faculty, staff, and students to gather and organize the information needed, using the UA Center for Advanced Public Safety for the technical work of designing and building the software.

Features of the app include:

  • The home page of the application showcases a Hot Topic Banner, navigable sections of help, and filters to specify needs and locations.
  • The helpline page displays click-to-call phone numbers. Each helpline has direct dial functionality and direct SMS to text the helpline, when applicable. Users with internet access can also select to visit the helpline website.
  • The services locator access page provides a directory for substance use, prevention, mental health or medication drop-off locations and includes services offered (outpatient, residential, etc.), demographics and location of services.
  • Additional resources and information, including direct access to free Naloxone training provided by the Jefferson County Department of Health, are available on the app.

The state plans to add additional functionality and features to support mobile users, service providers and other stakeholders.

“Having this new Connect Alabama app will facilitate those seeking information and treatment by easily linking Alabamians to the resources and services that are available to them,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said.

The app is available for download on Apple iOS through the app store and for Android devices via Google Play.


Adam Jones, UA communications, 205-348-4328, adam.jones@ua.edu