Brave Button Pilot
The Brave Button Pilot was made possible through our strong, collaborative relationships with individuals and organizations at the frontlines of the overdose crisis. Over the past year and a half, Brave has connected with and interviewed over 100 stakeholders in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside - including people who use drugs, frontline responders, harm reduction workers, and community organizations - whose insight formed the foundation of this pilot project.
Funded by VanCity, Brave ran a pilot in partnership with RainCity Housing in June 2018 to test Brave Buttons in action. The buttons system was tested over 11 days in a supportive housing complex in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a neighborhood deeply affected by the opioid crisis. Many of the building’s residents actively use drugs and on-site overdoses - while rarely fatal - are regular occurrences. The pilot goal was to offer building residents a simple way to access safer drug consumption and test whether people will use an internet-enabled button to access peer support.
Buttons were installed in 17 rooms and connected to the internet via Bluetooth. Button pushes triggered a text message to be sent to two phones located on site - one for peer workers and the other for staff. The text message requested a check-in on the specific room that the button was in within 3 to 5 minutes. A reminder text was sent a few minutes later.
Brave makes a conscious effort to ensure that its work in community is trauma-informed and peer-centered. One-on-one interviews were conducted before the pilot with building staff and each of the 21 building residents, who were compensated for their time. Brave also hired a peer worker to be on site at least 30 hours/week during the pilot. Fair compensation of peer participants in Brave’s initiatives is imperative to building reciprocity with the people we are serving.
Once distributed, Brave Buttons were stationed in each room at a location of the tenant’s choosing. Roughly 50% of tenants chose to place buttons underneath their lightswitch, ~30% chose to place it near their sink and mirror, the remaining 20% placed the button near their bed.
65% of residents with a button used it to request support.
Excluding accidental or testing presses, the majority of requests were for supervised consumption. A significant portion of requests were for support in emergency situations, such as overdose or a violent guest.
Of the remaining residents that did not use their Brave Button, all stated that they would have if they felt uneasy or unsafe, suggesting the potential for an incredibly successful adoption rate.
100% of residents reported feeling safer with in-room Brave Buttons and said they wanted permanent access.
“It’s a good thing to have the button. I completely feel safer with it there.”
“It’s a great idea, we just need it for longer.”
“It’ll take a few months? Fuck that shit, you guys better be back soon.”
“I think it’s a good idea permanently…It should be automatically offered to people when they get a prescription.”
Through the Brave Button pilot, we confirmed that residents are willing to use the button technology to reduce their own, and their visitors, risk of overdose. Interviews were conducted again with building residents and staff once the pilot ended. From these, we learned about product improvements, like designing the button to request both normal and urgent assistance. We are confident that other people in similar housing situations will be willing to embrace this technology.
Staff also expressed positive outcomes from the pilot. One staff member shared: “Normally we wouldn’t know if [tenants] were using…the button brought us closer. It brought relationships out that normally we wouldn’t have had. People invited us into their space, into their room, at moments where they wouldn’t have previously.”
Overall, we consider the pilot a huge success an are excited to continue to grow the technology with the Brave community.