Minus O App Fights The Opiod Crisis

Cole & Weber, Technology and Community Join Forces to Increase Distribution Of A Life-Saving Opioid Antidote.

Tell us about yourself and your role in this project. Why did you get involved?
My role in the Minus O app/program is to provide the Lowekey (app developer) team with first-hand experience related to prescription drug addiction and overdose scenarios. I also provide strategic planning and go-to-market guidance as we work to align partners and resources to launch the app.

I got involved in the development of this app when I met Gregory Lowe II (CEO of Lowekey) at a WPP meeting related to developing solutions for the opioid epidemic. I recognized the value of the app he was proposing to develop and together, we’ve been advancing the technology, partners and plans to make the app a reality.


How does this app work and what features will it have to help Opioid abusers?

The app connects individuals who are witnessing an overdose with access to Narcan, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. It allows anyone who has downloaded the app to send an “SOS” request for naloxone (brand name Narcan) – the app pings registered “responders” (app users who have agreed to carry Narcan and respond to calls) and also notifies 911 of the call. Once the request has been made via the app, a nearby responder carrying Narcan will “accept” the request and physically go to the individual. The responder has the option of either administering the Narcan dose or simply deliver it to the requestor.

The app also helps to connect opioid abusers and registered responders with resources in their area. These resources might include treatment locators, support groups, needle exchange locations, therapeutic video assets and prescription drug disposal locations. The goal is to use the overdose occurrence as an intervention opportunity to inform and educate individuals on harm reduction and treatment strategies.


What are some difficulties that came up during the process of marketing and building an app like this?

The biggest difficulty in the process of marketing and launching this app has been the ability to gain support from corporate and government entities to help fund the program. Because the app deals with a very sensitive and life/death situation, people are skeptical to get involved and support the work. Even with existing, successful community-based naloxone programs to look to for learnings and protocols, hesitation still exists to provide support for this new delivery format.

The challenge to get funding support has been significantly more difficult than the development of the mobile app itself, which leverages several existing code bases and doesn’t require extremely complex or unknown technologies. The other challenge was creating a mobile application to serve two user scenarios. The two user-scenarios for the app – “responders,” represented with a gradient blue-green color and “requestors,” identified with a gradient red. The color selection is intentional, with the responder colors symbolizing stability and trust and the requestor interface signaling urgency and caution. This color scheme is consistent throughout the app making it easy for users to know what type of action is happening – especially important in a medical emergency situation.

With any design project offering a solution, there are 5 steps that are adopted during development; empathy/understanding the problem, research, wireframes, visual design, and testing. The most important phase in designing Minus O was the research phase where the Lowekey team had to adopt the concept of “user centered design,” keeping in the forefront the user’s state of mind when interacting with this particular app.

The development team spent half of the research phase brainstorming concepts, and in the process came to understand the opioid epidemic more deeply. During this process I provided first-person experience with Fentanyl overdoses and proven rescues with Narcan. My “ground level” insights and understanding of the user environment provided the Lowekey team with actionable steps that could be built into the design


Tell us about the other WPP agencies working on this and how they got involved in this project?

Brought together by shared tragedies among employees within our corporate families, WPP, a global leader in advertising and marketing services, and iHeartMedia, America’s largest reach and multimedia company specializing in radio, digital, and live events, joined forces to  combine our communications expertise, integrated media assets, and celebrity influence, to create the National Opioid Action Coalition (NOAC). The coalition serves as an organizing body for a social responsibility effort designed to drive measurable results in prevention, treatment and/or recovery for communities and individuals affected by the opioid crisis. 


What made you decide to share your family’s story on your blog with the public?

I decided to share our story because one of the reasons people stay in their addiction and don’t get help is because of the stigma that exists. It’s also very difficult as a parent to open up and share your child’s struggle because of the judgement that goes along with addiction. Parents feel that it’s their fault and avoid talking, which in turn keeps the issue in the dark.

Until people start openly talking about this disease and the ways it can be treated, people will suffer alone and not find the resources they need to get well. Our family is representative of one that nobody would ever think of when you say “addiction” – this is a non-discriminating disease that impacts people in every generation, income level, neighborhood, education level and race.

I hope that our story will educate people about who is being impacted, show the reality of dealing with an addicted child, highlight the threat of opioid overdose, and share resources that are available. I want to start dialogs that will help bring prescription drug addiction out of the dark so that people can stop dying and start healing.


Where do you see this project going in the future?

In the future we hope to make Minus O a very robust tool that not only helps save lives during overdoses but can proactively be a resource to those who are seeking help. We’ll partner locally with organizations who are able to intervene when needed to help those struggling with addiction as well as those who are supporting someone with a substance use disorder.

With the proper funding we intend to expand the program into US cities and specific counties that are experiencing increasingly high overdose death rates due to heroin and fentanyl-laced drugs. 

Brenda Zane
Group Business Director Cole & Weber