New lifeguard app launched to help prevent overdoses

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – 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 to help save more lives and make sure that people who use drugs alone have access to the supports they need.

Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, says the app couldn’t have come at a better time. With two big public health emergencies happening, the overdose crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that people who are using drugs have the proper resources they need, when and where they need them. The majority of people who use drugs use alone in shelters, hotels, or at home. With physical distancing challenges, the Lifeguard App is a new and innovative approach that is able to directly link people to emergency responders should an overdose occur.

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The app is activated by the user before taking their dose, after 50 seconds the app will sound an alarm and if the user doesn’t hit a button to stop the alarm will grow louder. After 75 seconds a text to voice call will go straight to 9-1-1, alerting medical dispatchers of a potential overdose.

The Lifeguard app is 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 was actually launched in regional health authorities in a phased approach between May and early June. 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 run tests and to pilot the app in controlled environments.

Jeff Hardy, CEO, and founder of Lifeguard Digital Health says that they’ve been working on the app for over two years, making sure it runs effectively and smoothly. Hardy also states he’s hoping the app will reduce some of the harm caused by the overdose crisis by empowering drug users to be active participants.

BC Emergency Health Services’ project lead Neil Lilley states that BC Ambulance paramedics and their firefighter first responders partners are often first on the scene when an overdose takes place and they’ve seen the devasting impact it can have, so that’s why they agreed to test of the app for the past two years.

People who do use drugs are encouraged to do it with a friend and to make sure they’re using overdose prevention services and supervised consumption sites when and where they’re available.

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