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Did You Know Opioid Related Deaths

are a Public Health Crisis?

The overdose crisis is an unprecedented public health emergency that has touched the lives of everyone in British Columbia.

People are dying every day, even as countless lives are saved by the heroic interventions of first responders, front-line workers, peers, friends and family.

People in B.C. expect an urgent, comprehensive response to this crisis – a response that includes prevention, enforcement, harm reduction and treatment and recovery. That’s what we’re doing.

Stigma around addiction results in many people who use drugs to use alone and that’s a reality we must address.

BC is seeing an increase in overdose events and deaths since the implementation of stay at home measures.

Now more than ever, we are encouraging people to not use alone and to buddy up or access local overdose prevention services.

This is the latest tool in our toolbox to support people who use drugs alone and face the risk of overdose.

The App is an innovative approach to prevent overdoses and save lives, however it is not a silver bullet.

When it comes to the overdose crisis, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the app work?

  • The App is activated by the user before they take their dose.
  • After 50 seconds the App will sound an alarm. If the user doesn’t hit a button to stop the alarm, indicating they are fine, the alarm grows louder.
  • After 75 seconds a text-to-voice call will go straight to 9-1-1, alerting emergency medical dispatchers of a potential overdose.
  • There is also a demo video to assist you at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpbHxJueEEI

Will people who use drugs want to deal with a countdown timer every time they want to use?

  • We understand not everyone is going to want to use this app, but testing indicates this resource has the potential to save lives and that is our goal.
  • We want to ensure we are reaching people where they are at, and for many people who use drugs, that means at home and/or alone.
  • This is just one tool in our ever-growing tool box to support people who use drugs to stay alive so they can find their own unique pathway to healing and hope.

The buddy system and/or visiting supervised consumption and overdose prevention services have always been championed as the best ways to save lives from overdose. Doesn’t this app promote the opposite (using alone)?

  • Stigma around addiction forces many people who use drugs to use alone and that’s a reality we must address.
  • To better support people who use alone, this App will make sure that people who use drugs have another option to connect to emergency personnel when they need it.
  • It is not the silver bullet to addressing the overdose crisis, and we still encourage the use of supervised consumption, overdose prevention services, and buddying up, instead of using alone.

Was this App created as a physical distancing measure?

  • The Lifeguard App has been piloted across the province over the last two years, well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • But the launch is very timely indeed – given the challenges we currently face with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures that are currently in place.

What about people who can’t access the App because they don’t have a phone?

  • We recognize there are vulnerable people at risk of overdose who may not have access to a device.
  • The Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. (SPARC) has a program to provide a limited number of smart phones to regional health authorities to distribute to those at highest risk of overdose.
  • The regional health authorities are working closely with community partners to determine need and distribution of devices to support the implementation of the Lifeguard App.

What if people do not have access to WIFI and can’t afford data?

  • WIFI access is being provided in Victoria and Vancouver for people who have moved from encampments into hotels/motels.
  • People should reach out to their housing provider and/or income assistance and/or local overdose prevention service or outreach worker.

Are there any situations where the police will be notified through the Lifeguard App?

  • No.
  • This app will assist with public safety and is not connected to law enforcement/police in any way.

How do you get people to add an app to their phone who are very likely trying to keep their addiction a secret?

  • Stigma is one of the greatest challenges people who use substances face.
  • Stigma is what results in many people who use drugs to use alone and that’s a reality we must address.
  • This App is one more option to support people who use drugs and if it will help save even one life – it’s worth it.

How will this App work for people in rural and remote communities where first responders aren’t nearby?

  • If the user becomes unresponsive and an overdose is suspected, the App sends a message through the 911 system to the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) dispatch centre.
  • BCEHS is a provincial service and notifies local first responder agencies, including Fire-Rescue agencies and Indigenous first responder groups of all life-threatening emergency medical calls so they can provide life-saving interventions until paramedics arrive.
  • It is important to be clear that the emergency response to the App’s alerts will vary throughout the Province.
  • First responders in every region are supportive of this new tool and we are exploring ways to continuously improve the App to address any limitations.
  • These include adding friends and family as responders for the App or community contacts who could provide emergency response.

Why a phased approach and not a provincial rollout?

  • A phased approach will allow for trouble shooting and time to make necessary adjusts to the app as the rollout continues over a four-week period.

What is the order of the rollout?

  • The projected rollout in each health authority is:
    • Island Health on May 11th.
    • Interior Health on May 18th.
    • Vancouver Coastal Health on May 25th.
    • Fraser Health on June 1st.
    • And Northern Health on June 8th.

Why roll this out in Island Health first and not Vancouver Coastal and the DTES?

  • The app is being rolled out in a phased approach.
  • We have started with a mid- to -smaller health authority (not VCH) to ensure any adjustments that need to be made can take place prior to rolling out in larger health authorities’ populations.

How much is the government spending on this app?

  • The Province has provided $900,000 to the Provincial Health Services Authority to oversee delivery of the LifeGuard app.
  • This included the pilot program and beta testing done by B.C. Emergency Health Services.

Can you offer insight into how the Beta Testing was conducted?

  • Beta testing was conducted in Vancouver in 2018.
  • It involved 28 people who use drugs and were living in a supportive housing environment.
  • Each person was given a phone with the app and were asked to share feedback and experiences.
  • During the first 2 weeks of trials there were 5 emergency alerts.
  • The results indicated the app had potential on a larger scale.
  • In May 2019, a 12-month pilot was initiated in Vancouver and Courtenay.