College Students Create User-Friendly Addiction Resource Website

Apr 21, 2015

The number of fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania has increased by 89 percent since 1999, according to the Trust for America’s Health. To help combat drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has launched a website called “Get Help Now” to improve public access to addiction resources and information.

The website, designed by three Harrisburg Area Community College students, uses maps and search tools to connect site visitors to anti-addiction resources near them. People can use the site to get driving directions to the nearest treatment facility or to learn more about health insurance options.

Christopher Mumma,42,  a part-time web development and design student at HACC, worked with Sarah Forry and Brad Bell to create the site. He said the biggest challenge was streamlining all of the site’s data and functions into a simple, user-friendly interface.

“It’s the beauty of hiding how much information is actually in this,” Mumma said. “There are databases attached to this—I built them, I know they’re there—but that’s the amazing thing. There’s mountains of information in the back end that no one needs to see.”

Mumma and the other students had three months to complete the website, from mid-September to mid-December. The project was part of the MobilePA Challenge, which partners state government agencies with students to develop mobile apps or websites to increase public access to information and services.

To keep the addiction resource site simple, the students narrowed the homepage to three options: a “Benefits Navigator,” a “Care Provider Search,” and information about dug take-back programs. After clicking on one of the options, visitors are given more information on how to proceed.

“It’s so simple that anybody—anybody—can use it,” Mumma said. “There’s no intimidation factor. It takes out that complication factor. Because what’s the first thing to drive somebody away from getting their help? Is it hard to get? Is it too frustrating?”

The website works on a variety of screen sizes, including smartphones.

“It rearranges itself and the icons adjust themselves to no matter what screen size it’s on,” Mumma said. “There is a lot of detail into that to make sure that it works on those devices.”