Made-in-B.C. ‘virtual consumption site’ expands U.S. reach in bid to reduce overdose deaths

B.C. tech aimed at harm reduction will be used throughout the U.S.

A mock-up of Brave's technology integrated with RapidSOS | submitted

A B.C. organization with its eye on preventing overdose deaths is expanding its reach south of the border.

Vancouver-based Brave Technology Coop has secured a partnership with RapidSOS Inc. to provide real-time data to U.S. first responders in the event of an accidental overdose.

Brave chief operating officer Oona Krieg describes the technology as functioning like a “virtual consumption site” in which people using drugs can connect with another individual using Brave’s app to help supervise them.

“The entire premise is based on the idea that a person will use technology to save their own life if they feel that their information is anonymous and that they're able to connect with another person who is not judgmental and willing and wanting to provide connection or support,” she told BIV.

“Especially in the time of COVID, we've seen overdose rates go up because social isolation is standard, so people who are already isolated are even more so isolated. Technology has a beautiful way of being able to activate the space between someone in need and someone able to provide support.”

The B.C. Coroners Service reported last month that 1,548 people died as a result of suspected drug overdoses by the end of December 2020.

That’s up from the 983 people who died a year prior.

Brave’s app requires that people connect to it prior to an emergency situation so that they can be in touch with someone as they use drugs.

“It's a buddy system,” Krieg said. 

“The best practice for scuba diving is to always dive with a buddy, because there's a risk going down that something could go wrong. If there's a buddy there, then both of you make it to the surface and everybody survives.”

The partnership will see Brave deliver additional data — such as location, emergency contacts or users’ profile information — to RapidSOS in the event of an accidental overdose.

U.S.-based RapidSOS is known for developing its own data platform to relay information to 911 operators via links to 350 million connected devices.

“We're so excited about the RapidSOS integration with the Brave technology, specifically in the U.S. because timing is everything. Minutes can be the difference between a fatality and a reversal,” Krieg said.

“Having a targeted location where the local emergency services are being pinged enables emergency services to get to a location very quickly with very little confusion. There's also a considerable amount of information — location, the length of time that somebody has been unresponsive. And … that flow of information allows for what might take half an hour to transpire in minutes.”