Submitted by Northern Health

To help save more lives and ensure people who use drugs alone have access to the supports they need, the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), in partnership with regional health authorities and Lifeguard Digital Health, has launched a new made-in-B.C. resource called the Lifeguard App.

The app is another tool in the province’s tool box to ensure a comprehensive response to the overdose crisis in British Columbia.

“The launch of this new resource couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “As we face down two public health emergencies – the overdose crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic – we must ensure that people who use drugs have the resources they need, when and where they need them. Knowing that the majority of people who use drugs use alone in shelters, hotels, or at home, in addition to the challenges of physical distancing, the Lifeguard App is a new and innovative approach that can directly link people to emergency responders if an overdose does occur.”

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.

The Lifeguard App is now being added to the list of essential health and social sector interventions as part of the Overdose Emergency Response Centre’s comprehensive response to the sustained and widespread overdose activity in BC. The app has been launched in regional health authorities in a phased approach between May and early June.

“This is a tool that specifically supports those who are most at risk of overdose death – people who use alone” said Susan Wannamaker, PHSA’s Executive Vice President of Clinical Service Delivery.

PHSA, BC Emergency Health Services, Vancouver Coastal Health, the Overdose Emergency Response Centre and other regional health authorities have been working closely with Lifeguard Health during the past two years to test and pilot the app in controlled environments.

“BC Ambulance paramedics and their firefighter first responder partners are often first on the scene when people overdose alone, and they see the devastating impact, so that’s why we said an enthusiastic yes to testing out this app during the past two years,” said BCEHS’ project lead Neil Lilley.

People who use drugs are encouraged to use with a friend and to use overdose prevention services and supervised consumption sites where they are available.

The Lifeguard App can be downloaded at both the App Store and Google Play.