New overdose prevention app set to expand following successful launch | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New overdose prevention app set to expand following successful launch

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An overdose response app launched this summer has already had more than 5,000 uses and was used to prevent overdoses on five occasions in the province so far so backers are hoping it expands.

It’s called the Lifeguard App, designed to prevent accidental overdoses for people who use drugs alone. It released May 20, 2020 across B.C. amid one of the deadliest periods in the overdose crisis.

The app is activated by the user, who remains anonymous, before they take their dose. This will set off an alarm after 50 seconds.

If the user doesn’t stop the alarm, indicating they are safe, the alarm gets louder. After 75 seconds a text-to-voice call will go straight to 911, alerting emergency medical dispatchers of a potential overdose. 

READ MORE: New overdose prevention app available in Interior Health region

"So far, we’ve had over 1,700 people download the app, and so far over 5,000 uses of the application,” Neil Lilley, Senior Provincial Executive Director for B.C. Emergency Health Services, said. “We’re very pleased with the results.”

To date, there have been five cases where paramedics were required to locate and revive the user. Three cases were in the Lower Mainland, and two were in the Okanagan.

All five occasions had a successful outcome.

“We’re already looking at some further enhancements to the application which are hopefully going to be released in the next couple weeks,” he said. “We’re really looking at building out the application, not just to be a response app, but also around connecting people to services which are available to them in that area.”

This would include nurse lines, suicide crisis centres, and other mental health resources.

The LifeguardApp was developed in B.C. by Lifeguard Digital Health and BC Emergency Health Services to address the overdose crisis in B.C.

The opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency by B.C.’s provincial health officer in 2016.

This year, there were a record number of overdose deaths in the province in May and June, according to a public alert.

Premier John Horgan addressed the opioid crisis, which contributed to a record 175 B.C. residents dying from overdoses in June alone, in a press conference July 16.

He said he will continue to pressure the federal government to decriminalize personal use of opioids and to help create a safe drug supply.

So far this year, there have been 728 deaths and the number of deaths in each health authority in B.C. is at or near the highest monthly totals ever recorded, according to a B.C. Coroners Service media release.

Lilley stressed awareness as a key component to addressing the crisis.

"The only way it’s going to work is if people download the application and don’t use alone,” he said.

“The more people which can download it, then the more lives we can save as a result."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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