The winning team making their pitch at Code4Pa. Courtesy of PA Internet News Service.

This codeathon had a life-changing purpose.

On Sept. 20, healthcare workers, coders, technologists and more gathered across Pennsylvania to participate in Code4Pa, a challenge to apply cutting-edge technology to fight the state’s opioid epidemic.

This past weekend, all 28 participating teams came together again to pitch their final projects to panels of expert judges in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

“We are excited by many of the ideas presented today and their potential to help fight the opioid epidemic,” said Secretary of Administration Sharon Minnich. “We look forward to continuing to work with the teams to further develop these ideas into solutions that can be used by state agencies, treatment providers, law enforcement and people struggling with opioid addiction.”

The winning app, called Care4Pa, is designed to provide personalized health recommendations to people struggling with opioid addiction based on variables including their age, insurance options and physical location. The hope is that this app can help close the information gap between addicts and the services already available to them.

With a sufficiently large user base, the app will also ideally provide state officials with valuable information on how to best reach struggling addicts. The app was designed by Chaitanya Dedhiya, Aniket Gode, Ilsa Snyder, Jahnavi Deshmukh and Pratik Sawant, a team of healthcare and tech professionals currently working for Deloitte in the Harrisburg area.

As winners of the grand prize, the team will receive a meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf and several other statewide experts to discuss the next steps for bringing their app to the phones of Pennsylvanians in need.

While stricter new laws and greater awareness of the risks of opioids have led to a drop in the overall number of opioid prescriptions written in recent years in Pennsylvania and nationwide, the larger health crisis is far from over. Last year in Allegheny County, a record 652 fatal overdoses were documented. That was an increase from 2016 when the previous record was broken.

In January of this year, Gov. Wolf signed an order officially declaring the state’s opioid crisis as a disaster emergency.

Code4PA, now in its second year, was hosted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with support from Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Code for Philly, the Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.