Case Study

ASPEN Behavioral Health Platform (Jefferson County Health Network)

Published on Jun 22, 2023

The Challenge: Making ASPEN’s Vision Come to Life with Limited Roadmap

The Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD) approached ArchitectNow with a petite grant they acquired after a several-year battle advocating to build a software platform that would help fill gaps in their community’s ecosystem. The stakeholders identified that many vulnerable demographics (such as schools, first responders, and veterans) lacked proper resources or a way to find them.

When the stakeholders first reached out to us, they did not know what this platform would look like or do but had only an abstract concept they could communicate about the problem to be solved in their desire for a centralized assistance platform called Aspen:

“ASPEN will be a forest with many trees that are different, yet still connected together by their branches.”

The trees would represent different core needs of the community, while the branches link siloed resources in the community together. This network would allow, for the first time, struggling families to have a centralized way to gain access to the help they need.

ArchitectNow’s Approach: Always Think Long-Term, Even if the Budget is Only Short-Term

Although many clients have a strong product direction at the onset of a project, ASPEN was a fantastic opportunity for our team to get our creative juices flowing. Establishing a wonderful working relationship with their team, both parties were passionate about helping the community and bringing ASPEN’s vision to life.

To identify the product’s first version, we held discovery brainstorming sessions with the core stakeholders, using visual tools to help get everyone’s thoughts out in the open and organized. A theme evolved that the first “tree” would be addressing behavioral health services, focusing on the detection of behavioral health issues in students. Our workflow evolved to collaborating with task forces of various school personnel and licensed counselors to finalize scope needs within the school environment.

As the product desires became more evident to the stakeholders, behind the scenes, part of ArchitectNow’s leadership team made technical infrastructure decisions that would not only fit within the budget constraints of the grant but would also always consider the future state of ASPEN and “what could be.” We wanted to create the ability for the platform to grow in order to encompass more community resources with minimal additional work to expand it. Our core concern was that we made Aspen flexible enough to address needs for years to come.

The Solution: The ASPEN Behavioral Health Virtual Detection Tool

ASPEN (Access to Services Providing Essential Needs) is a robust virtual tool that includes behavioral health screenings for several demographics, areas of need, automated detection, etc., and several publicly available resources.

The primary phase of ASPEN created a way for school counselors to identify potential students in their community that need behavioral health assistance, as well as standardized the screening processes for counselors in high-stress situations. Through the integration of several screening tools (including the nationally recognized Columbia Assessment), a student self-screening portal, and automated risk grading logic/area of need detection, ASPEN helps to aid community members to identify what they may need and get to the right resources. A public resource database for doctors part of the ASPEN network was also added, allowing users to find vetted resources.

In the following phases, ASPEN has grown to include a first responder branch, public/anonymous self-screenings, hotline crisis intervention, a health care workers branch, and a crisis incident response portal. Discussions of the future “trees” (including housing assistance) have begun. The forest’s growth and possibilities will continue to grow and evolve to exponential heights, with no limit or end in sight.

Results: Over a Half a Million Dollars of Additional Funding Secured

ArchitectNow helped JCHD to demonstrate why their vision for the community was a key missing component that needed to be remedied. Due to the innovative work shown in Aspen (and led by the ArchitectNow team), JCHD was able to secure over half a million dollars in additional funding since the small discovery budget we began with.

In addition, the Aspen platform won an honorable mention for an award in innovation from NACCHO (the National Association of County and City Health Officials) in 2022 as it demonstrated a high level of program innovation to meet community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. NACCHO is the national organization representing the country’s 2,800 county and city health departments.