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New Ohio County App Could Save Lives of Drug Overdosers

The Cuyahoga County Overdose Prevention App is designed to keep drug users safe by connecting them to someone who can stay in contact until they’re out of danger of overdosing. It was developed through a state opioid response grant.

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(TNS) — A staggering number of Cuyahoga County residents are dying from opioid overdoses while using drugs alone, without a companion to call for help if something goes wrong. But a recently launched mobile app could bridge the gap between isolation and safety.

The Cuyahoga Overdose Prevention Network (COPN) app is designed to keep drug users safe, by connecting them with a monitor, who stays on the line with them until they’re out of danger of overdosing. While other harm reduction campaigns have been effective at reducing the number of overdose deaths, many of these efforts — like the lifesaving overdose reversal drug naloxone and education on how to recognize the signs of an overdose — rely on someone else being around.

“Naloxone is a lifesaver. It’s probably the single most effective public health response we’ve had in the opioid crisis,” said Tom Gilson, Cuyahoga County medical examiner. “But we’re finding that the majority of people who overdose are using drugs by themselves. There hasn’t been enough done to reach the people who are using in isolation. You can have a dozen naloxone kits in the room, but it can only be effective when somebody else is around to administer it to you.”

A new study found that that of all adult unintentional overdose deaths in the Cuyahoga County from 2016 to 2020, nearly 75% occurred while people were using drugs alone, even though in more than half of the instances, a friend or family member was nearby.

But with many wishing to keep their drug use private, those loved ones often were unaware that help was needed until it was too late.

That’s where the COPN app comes in.


When a person downloads the app on their phone, they are prompted to create as many personal rescue plans as they wish, which can be helpful for those who use drugs in multiple locations. Each rescue plan lets the user choose who will be contacted if an overdose is detected — whether that be a nearby person, emergency medical services or both.

Rescue plans also include the app user’s location, how help can find the user (keys, security codes, which door to use), the app user’s contact details and any other information that should be known, such as allergies.

When the individual is about to use drugs, they’ll place a call through the app that connects them to a “supporter,” who will ask basic details about the type of drug they’ll be using and confirm which personal rescue plan they would like to use if an emergency occurs.

The supporter will stay on the line and check in at predetermined time intervals until the caller feels they are safe. If an overdose is detected — for example, if the app user is unresponsive — the supporter will alert the appropriate emergency resource and make sure help is on the way.

All calls through the app are anonymous and personal data stays on the user’s phone. Supporters only gain temporary access to location and emergency response information if a rescue plan is initiated, and all data is deleted from the app’s records within 24 hours.

Oona Krieg, chief operating officer at Brave Technology Cooperative, which worked with the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County to create the COPN app, said that confidentiality was one of the top priorities during development.

“We want to make sure people feel comfortable reaching out for help because drug use is highly stigmatized,” Krieg said. “Confidentiality is an extremely important part of this, so people can feel like their privacy and dignity are maintained.”

Callers are protected from drug charges through the Good Samaritan Law, which gives immunity for those who overdose, as well as those who call for help.


After receiving a state opioid response grant through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services about two years ago, the ADAMHS Board and Brave began collaborating to develop the application. Brave’s first overdose prevention app, a lightweight version available to the public at large, launched in 2020. Since then, it’s created four localized versions for communities in Ohio and the United Kingdom.

“We’re so lucky to have gotten the grant funding and been able to work with Brave,” said Scott Osiecki, CEO of the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County. “The overdose crisis is relentless and the need for rapid overdose detection and response has never been more urgent. This is going to be a powerful new tool in our toolbox to reduce overdoses in the county.”

The COPN app can be downloaded by any iPhone or Android user regardless of their location, and anyone who places a call will be connected with a supporter to monitor. But the additional resources available in the COPN app are targeted to Cuyahoga County, making it most useful for local residents.

These include, which can connect users to local treatment facilities, and the ADAMHS board website, with resources to find help and live in recovery. It also includes, which has a map of county locations offering free harm reduction resources like naloxone, fentanyl test strips and needle exchanges.

Krieg said that combining support resources with the overdose prevention line is key to the overall goal of the app — which is not only to create a safer environment when using drugs, but also to provide support for those who may feel isolated.

“The goal with harm and risk reduction isn’t just reducing overdose fatalities. It’s about integrating so many more solutions and strategies,” Krieg said. “With the app, people are no longer isolated. They have a conduit to the community and a whole network of regional support.”

Krieg hopes that eventually there will be enough local volunteer supporters that each call is answered by someone in the region. Because the COPN app just launched, that full group is still being assembled. In the meantime, if nobody in the area is available to answer a call, it’s sent over to Brave’s hotline of operators to make sure calls are answered 24/7.

“It only takes one time of not getting an answer to deter someone, so we’re making sure that’s never an issue,” Krieg said. “We’re here for you. If you call, we will answer.”

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