Uncovering A Crucial Arrow in the Quiver to Fight Opioid Overdoses

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A revolution is quietly underway in the treatment of opioid addiction via the combination of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and telemedicine. This innovative treatment, called teleMAT, takes traditional MAT to the next level. How? By making it easy to reach a physician proficient in addiction treatment while also avoiding the social stigma of being seen entering a doctor’s office.

Patients on the road to beating their addiction to opioids can speak to the doctor from the comfort of their own home, or if this isn’t a viable option, the privacy of their car. But cutting-edge technology isn’t just valid for the treatment of opioid addiction. It’s applicable to the work of preventing overdoses. This work also presents a meaningful opportunity for our organization, QuickMD, to give back to the community in an effort to save lives.

The QuickMD team recently spoke to Oona Krieg, the COO of Brave[1], a Canadian technology co-op leading the charge[2] to protect opioid users from dangerous overdose situations that can often result in death. Krieg explains how she has had first-hand experience with the worlds of drugs, sex work, and homeless, saying: “When I managed to get my life on track nearly 20 years ago, I put that knowledge and experience towards helping to create a safety net for people who might otherwise fall through the cracks.”

Krieg is particularly invested in helping people who use drugs due to her own personal experience. Her best friend died of an overdose before the fentanyl epidemic[3] sweeping North America, which combined with her work in poverty, risk, and violence reduction contributed to her desire to take action to help others. The overdose crisis galvanized her to harness technology to save others from the tragic death her friend experienced years before. One of the solutions Krieg and her team have developed is the Brave App, an innovative technological solution that is already saving lives.

Here is how it works. The Brave App connects the person about to use opioids with an anonymous volunteer. Together, they establish the user’s location as well as a safety plan, which might range from “call my mom” to “immediately phone 911.” The app also allows the volunteer to ping the user to confirm they are safe, and if all is well, the user and volunteer may go separate ways, remaining anonymous. Upon the first sign of trouble, though, such as a lack of response, the safety plan is unlocked for the volunteer to act.

If emergency services are required, Brave’s integration of Rapid SOS[4] results in emergency calls being directed to a 911 center close to the user’s phone instead of the volunteer’s area. This saves crucial time, especially if, let’s say, the overdose victim happens to be in Vancouver, but the volunteer resides in Florida.

As Krieg explained to QuickMD, anonymity and volunteers are the dual keys to Brave’s success. “Privacy is 100% paramount. As we designed the app, we spoke to stakeholders in public health groups and opioid users directly who all told us the same thing: ‘If it's not anonymous, I won't use it. Because I have too much to lose—like my job and my housing—I’d rather risk the overdose.’”

Much like QuickMD’s approach to teleMAT, which prevents the stigma of visiting an addiction clinic, replacing it with empathy-driven care from physicians dedicated to their patients, the Brave App pairs at-risk users with a volunteer whose interest is in keeping them safe. As overdose deaths sadly climbed[5] 30% in 2020, help is more critical than ever before. As one might imagine based on the above statistic, demand for volunteers continues to rise. As Krieg explains, “We need everybody who is willing to see the humanness of a person who uses drugs and want to help keep them breathing.”

According to Krieg, roughly 99% of Brave’s volunteers possess direct experience using opioids or have a personal stake in the matter, like a friend or loved one who struggled with drugs or died from overdosing, like her friend. She says that “To be able to take action and actually make a difference in another human being's life is a positive outcome. It helps volunteers to stay focused on solutions.”

And this is where the QuickMD community comes in. QuickMD patients and physicians are ideal volunteers for the Brave App and similar tech-based tools. First, its many patients are tech savvy. They already utilize apps to communicate with their doctor. What’s more, they’ve walked a mile in the opioid user’s shoes. It’s reasonable to say, those users protected from overdose today may find the road to recovery from addiction in the future.

Ultimately, volunteering for a service like Brave serves as a way for those who have come so far in their recovery, especially thanks to teleMAT, to give back to those who have not yet begun their own recovery. Even so, employing the Brave App to keep someone from overdosing may be “too close to the action” for some volunteers. Yet, as Krieg explains, “We need all kinds of help because we are growing so quickly. We require operational assistance, and people to ‘support the supporters.’”

At the end of the day, QuickMD believes its community has a tremendous opportunity to save opioid users from overdose by signing up for Brave’s training[6] and becoming a volunteer today. If you are interested in joining the teleMAT revolution to enable people from wall walks of life to shift from addiction to recovery, please get in touch.

Jared Sheehan: Jared is the Chief Operating Officer at QuickMD. He is a serial entrepreneur who has worked at the intersection of social impact and technology for the last decade. Prior to QuickMD, he was a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting in their Social Impact Strategy practice. Jared is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and has deep healthcare experience, including the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Aurora Healthcare, Neeka Healthcare, Scripps research, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange. Jared is the winner of the FDA Naloxone App Competition. Jared graduated Summa Cum Laude from Miami University.

Michael Ashley: Michael Ashley is a contributing writer for QuickMD and the author of more than 30 books, including four bestsellers. A former Disney screenwriter and current professional speaker, he is also a columnist with Forbes and Entrepreneur, covering medical applications of AI and Big Data. Beyond contributing to these publications, Michael has written for the HuffPostFast Company, the IEEE, the United Nations' ITU News, the Orange County Business JournalThe California Business JournalNewsbase, and the Orange County Register. He has also been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Fox Sports, and KTLA.

 

[1] https://www.brave.coop/

[2] https://www.citynews1130.com/2021/03/26/vancouver-tech-drug-users/

[3] https://www.naadac.org/assets/2416/aa&r_summer2017_fentanyl_the_third_wave_of_the_opioid_crisis.pdf

[4] https://rapidsos.com/about/

[5] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/drug-overdose-deaths-in-2020-were-horrifying/

[6] https://coursecraft.net/c/braveapptraining/splash

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