VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A Vancouver-created app that helps people who use drugs stay alive, despite being socially isolated during the pandemic, has received thousands of calls since it was launched a year ago.
Oona Krieg is the co-founder of the “BRAVE” app, and says more than 6,000 callers have accessed virtual support while experiencing an overdose since the app went live last May, and, at least 12 overdose deaths have been prevented.
She says they knew the overdose crisis would only worsen during the COVID-19 era.
“We knew that, because of COVID protocols, and the already existing social isolation of people who use drugs, that overdose rates were going to go up, so we released our app,” says Krieg.
Krieg says they have about 400 regular app users and their feedback has been vital in saving more lives.
“Our supporters receive a lot of positive feedback from the relationships that they’re building with people who are calling in, in isolation, with as simple as, ‘Hey, you’re a real lifesaver, and this is the only place that I feel comfortable telling anyone that I’m using drugs, and I feel safer as a result of having this connection.”
However, because everyone doesn’t have access to a telephone, the organization has also created in-person supports.
“Another is, inside of housing, like SRO’s and supportive housing environments were people are isolated as well, and we have other technologies that we’ve built in what we call our ‘eco-system’ to get people access to summoning support, who don’t have access to technology like telephones. So, for example, the buttons themselves, which are installed in 12 different buildings in Vancouver, and two in the US, are providing day-to-day support for people who use drugs who don’t have access to resources, otherwise.”
She says it’s resulted in even more lives saved.
“We’ve had thousands of button-presses, thousands of connections, hundreds of overdoses reversed inside of housing,” says Krieg.
Wednesday marks five years since the overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency in B.C., and over those five years, more than 7,000 people have died from a drug-related death.