The Alberta government will test out a new phone app designed to help reduce the number of overdose deaths in the province.
Alberta Health unveiled the new project Tuesday, called Digital Overdose Response System. The app triggers a call from STARS emergency centre if the individual becomes unresponsive to a timer.
In 2020, 1,128 people died in Alberta from opioid overdose, many in private residences.
According to data from the provincial government, in 2020, 70 per cent of overdose deaths in Alberta occurred in a private residence. From 2018 to 2020, 60 to 80 per cent of opioid-related fatalities in Calgary and Edmonton occurred in suburban neighbourhoods outside the downtown core.
The announcement Tuesday about the new app came after the province shuttered a phone-based supervised consumption project last June.
Albertans using the app will be asked to include location information before logging into the service. After that, a two-minute timer is triggered and when the time is up, users can respond by extending or ending the session. If the user does not respond, it triggers a call from STARS and they will dispatch EMS if necessary.
The new app will cost the government $325,000 to design and test and is scheduled to launch in Calgary this summer, with plans to expand to other communities in 2022, once the testing phase is complete.
“We know that most people who fatally overdose in Alberta, do so in a private home,” said Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions.
“Among the first of its kind in Canada, the DORS app will help prevent opioid and other substance-related deaths by those using alone at home. Launching this app is another important step in building a full recovery-oriented continuum of care for addiction treatment in the province.”