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An app intended to curb overdoses by alerting emergency medical services if a user is unresponsive is now available in Edmonton.

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First launched in Calgary, those using the free Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) app will receive a call from the STARS emergency center if they don’t respond to a timer. If an overdose is suspected, STARS will dispatch emergency medical services to the person’s location.

“More than 70 percent of opioid-related deaths occur in the home,” Mike Ellis, associate minister for mental health and addictions, said in a news release.

“The Digital Overdose Response System will help prevent deaths of people who use opioids at home. If you are in Edmonton, use the DORS app when using opioids and other substances, especially when using them alone. “

Created by Alberta-based company Aware 360 ​​Ltd., the app only collects a person’s phone number and location, and STARS only initiates contact if an emergency is suspected.

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The app also has information on treatment and recovery services through an addiction resources tab.

A mental health and addictions spokesperson said the province could not provide data on the number of users the app currently has, or the number of times emergency medical services have been dispatched, because DORS is a confidential and anonymous program. .

Elaine Hyshka, an associate professor at the University of Alberta School of Public Health, said on Friday that she is not opposed to the app, but hopes to see what data and pilots were run on the app to ensure it is safe and effective sooner. to implement it.

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“I would be concerned if it is implemented without strong evidence and without direct involvement of the target population. So I’d really like to see usability testing done with people who are actively using drugs, to make sure this app is something that meets their needs, “he said.

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Hyshka added that those people will feel the stigma of the substance and will be very concerned about their privacy.

“Every time you set up an app like that, you have to be very, very careful to protect privacy and that people feel that their information will be kept safe and that there is no risk that they could be criminalized,” he said.

Between January and July of this year, 898 Albertans have died from accidental drug poisoning, the latest data of Alberta government programs. Of those, 821 deaths have been from opioid poisoning.

This marks a 22 percent increase over the same period in 2020, in which there were 735 accidental drug poisonings.

There were 137 drug poisonings in June and 116 in July.

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Edmonton continues to experience higher rates of drug poisoning than the rest of Alberta. During June and July, the city saw a total of 107 accidental drug poisoning deaths, 104 of them from an opioid.

By comparison, Calgary experienced 75 overdose deaths, with 71 from opioid poisoning.

In response to the latest overdose numbers, the NDP’s critique of mental health and addictions, Lori Sigurdson, said in a statement that the deaths are preventable and that “the inaction of the UCP to adequately respond to the crisis” is. worse.

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He noted that the NDP had previously proposed an emergency action plan to address the crisis, including expanding supervised consumption sites, a safe and regulated supply of drugs, and making drug testing readily available so users can know. if what they have is safe.

with files from Lisa Johnson

[email protected]

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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Reference-edmontonjournal.com

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