2021 CMSC Annual Meeting

Connect Trial of Online Professional Support Groups for Black and Latinx People Living with MS

Background: Given the high prevalence of anxiety and depression in MS, many patients struggle to find high quality, professional mental health services. Currently available options for one-on-one therapy may be unaffordable, inaccessible, unavailable, or ineffective, as many licensed therapists have limited experience with chronic disease and/or MS. Free peer-led support groups may be unproductive or even upsetting. eSupport Health provides professional online face-to-face support groups delivered by licensed therapists who specialize in MS. Objectives: The CONNECT study is a pilot feasibility trial evaluating a 12-week program of professionally moderated, health-coach led online eSupport groups for reducing anxiety or depression with a focus on historically underserved (Black and Latinx) MS patients. Methods: Target enrollment is 80 pwMS, 70% Black or Latinx. Group size is limited to 10 members per coach, groups meet 45-minutes once per week, for 12 weeks. Baseline and follow-up validated measures of anxiety and depression (primary efficacy outcome), and quality of life, loneliness, and medication adherence / healthcare utilization (secondary outcomes) are collected. Each participant serves as her/his own waitlist control. Group sessions are anchored by a weekly theme that participants receive via email from their coach. Results: The trial was registered on clinicaltrials.gov and initiated on June 25, 2021, and recruitment / enrollment began as of July 1 and the trial will be ongoing for 12 months. Conclusions: Successful completion of the CONNECT trial will provide feasibility evidence and preliminary efficacy evidence to support an affordable, accessible, acceptable, and effective mental health treatment for individuals with MS from historically underserved populations.