The success of an app that helps Lakeland students with mental health issues has led to its use by 13 other colleges and universities which include Antioch College, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Columbus State Community College, Cleveland Institute of Music, University of Cincinnati, Lorain County Community College, Mount Union, Otterbein University, Sinclair Community College, Stark State Community College and Ursuline College. Each school has customized and adapted the app for their own use (see photo).
In 2016, Lakeland launched the "Reach Out" app and was intended to be used by anyone to be prepared to help a friend—not just for students with mental health issues.
"I like to say that the app is for suicide prevention and mental health promotion," said campus psychologist Ken Browner, Psy.D., who spearheaded the app's creation. "It is designed to connect people with potentially life-saving resources and information and to provide guidance to anyone who may be concerned about a friend or loved one."
The app was originally funded by The Lakeland Foundation and the Ohio Program on Campus Safety and Mental Health, in collaboration with the Lake County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.
Browner reached out to Joe Kozlevcar, professor of information technology and computer science, for recommendations on developers who might be able to lend their expertise and be a part of the project to build the app.
Two former students came highly recommended. Jason Osher and Brian Eaton both took the mobile app programming classes taught by Kozlevcar and subsequently earned several information systems certificates from Lakeland. Osher continues to work on customizing the app for other colleges.
In September 2017, Lakeland began a partnership with Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, which provided an additional $26,000 in funding through their federal SAMHSA Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention. Some of the funding was used to hire an outside programmer to assist with the growing project.
For Lakeland users, the Reach Out app was downloaded 1,333 times since its launch. As the pandemic progressed last year, app usage increased: From Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, 2020, the educational suicide prevention information was accessed 893 times by 328 distinct users; Crisis hotlines and textlines were accessed 413 times by 148 distinct users; and campus-specific resources and information were accessed 480 times by 218 distinct users.
For all colleges utilizing the app, lifetime downloads numbered 6,143. However as the first summer classes held during a pandemic went into session, the app was downloaded 784 times from July – Sept. 2020, signifying the need for mental health assistance.
Over the lifetime of all college apps: educational suicide prevention information was accessed 9,278 times by 3,588 distinct users; crisis hotlines and textlines were accessed 3,852 times by 1,750 distinct users; and campus-specific resources and information was accessed 4,798 times by 2,156 distinct users.
All apps are all available for download on Apple's App and Google Play stores. Lakeland's app may be found by searching for "Reach Out Lakeland." The college continues to contract with individual colleges to customize the app for them. Three customization projects are currently underway.