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Health Policy Student Speaks on Twitter Panel About Intersection Between Technology, Recovery

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on November 13, 2018

Robert AshfordWhen Robert Ashford PhD’24 (Health Policy), MSW, was beginning his journey of recovery, he felt isolated in the community where he was tasked with sustaining a lifetime of recovery with few connections or examples of other young adults facing the same challenges. 

“When you are young, thinking about being in recovery for the rest of your life is a really intense proposition, especially if you don’t have a peer group experiencing the same thing,” said Ashford. He turned to social media where he discovered a digital community through a Twitter hashtag and was able to connect with other young adults that were in recovery from substance use disorders.

“I found a digital community and people who were my age, going though similar trajectories, and finding new identities and a way of living,” said Ashford, who also works as a graduate research assistant at USciences’ Substance Use Disorders Institute. “It opened up a range of possibilities that I didn’t think was possible. I found my tribe.”

Today, Ashford, who remains active in the recovery community both in person and on social media through #RecoveryMovement, is a member of a working group of representatives from non-profits and research institutions assembled by Twitter to lead a conversation about what the social media platform can do to support the recovery community. 

He will participate in a multiplatform conversation about recovery and policy that can help to support recovery with @TwitterDC on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 at 4 p.m. The event is part of a series about policy topics that will include an in-person panel discussion which will be broadcast on Periscope, Twitter’s video live stream application.

The conversation will focus on the opioid and overdose crisis and the role that technology can play in supporting recovery. The goal is to raise awareness in the public and with elected officials about the need for funding and support of policies, access to treatment and housing reform, among other things.

“The goal is to show people who are going through treatment or who need treatment, family members, and the general public that not only is recovery possible, but that there is an amazing support network out there that exists in the millions,” said Ashford.

He and his colleagues in Twitter’s working group hope to continue their research work to leverage artificial intelligence-based recovery support on the platform. For example, individuals who are searching for opioids may get pop-ups for treatment resources or other supports.

“Twitter has committed to leveraging their big data and information to actually help us conduct recovery-related research on a large scale,” said Ashford. “That kind of research really isn’t possible elsewhere, so their willingness to partner with their platform is a really innovative aspect. In this partnership, we can open the doors up to more rigorous and impactful recovery-related research.”

Categories: News, Students, Substance Use Disorders Institute, Misher College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Health Policy, Presentation, USciences