Text alerts for toxic drugs now available in Interior

In response to the current toxic drug emergency, a new health alert system has been launched in Interior Health.

“Across the province – in every community – we continue to see tragic deaths from the toxic drug supply. The new alert system is an example of innovation and community collaboration to save lives in this crisis,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson.

The Toxic Drug Alerts system uses text messaging to send alerts as a public health measure to prevent drug-related poisonings and deaths, and provides timely information and up-to-date resources to people who use drugs and to members of the community.

“We are excited to have this new tool available in Interiors to support people and provide information immediately to those who need it most,” said Susan Brown, President and CEO of Interior Health. “As the number of lives lost continues to rise, we are focused on breaking down barriers to support and implementing new strategies to prevent drug-related poisonings and deaths and mitigate the harm caused by supply of toxic drugs.”

People who use drugs, those who support them and members of the community are encouraged to sign up for Toxic Drug Alerts by submitting the keyword JOIN to ALERTS (253787). They will receive toxic drug and drug poisoning alerts and, in the future, public health alerts, such as information related to COVID-19.

“Timely and targeted information about the current drug supply is essential when we see that the toxicity of illicit drugs is increasing at an alarming rate. The alerts will help people make more informed decisions and ultimately help reduce harm, including overdoses and deaths, from poisonous drugs,” said Jessica Bridgeman, Sexual Health and harm reduction at Interior Health.

To further help keep communities safe, subscribers can anonymously submit information related to toxic drugs or drug poisoning via text message using the keyword OD.

“The priority is to get people access to a safe supply, but while we wait, toxic drug alerts will be really helpful in letting us know what’s going on in our communities and can help people take them. harm reduction decisions themselves. said Sara Young, harm reduction manager at the BC Center for Disease Control.

Drug alerts play an important role in empowering people who use drugs to do so more safely.

“I was so happy to get the drug scares in and around my area because anything around here will eventually get here,” said one person with lived experience who participated. to the development of the new system. “I used this information to prepare for any toxic drugs that might come our way by making testers smaller, trying to get samples into drug testers, asking my peers what they think and informing my peers of drug alerts. It helped a lot when there were color photos. The description was also helpful.

Interior Health is the first health authority to launch the new system developed by the BC Center for Disease Control and the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Office of Virtual Health in partnership with regional health authorities. The alert system should be extended to other health authorities in the summer of 2022.

A program called RADAR has been run as a research project by Vancouver Coastal Health since 2015. It has demonstrated the success of a text message drug and overdose alert system.

To learn more about the DOPhE system, visit verslecoeur.com.

For more information on substance use and the toxic drug crisis, visit interiorhealth.ca.

Betty K. Park