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Alberta testing out new overdose prevention app in Calgary this summer

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The Alberta government has announced plans to try out a new mobile app – called the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) – in hopes will help prevent drug overdoses. Tom Vernon explains. – Mar 23, 2021

The Alberta government has announced plans to try out a new app it hopes will help prevent drug overdoses.

The UCP says the mobile app – called the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) – will help protect people who are using drugs recreationally while alone in their homes.

The app has a timer, which if not deactivated by the user when prompted, will then trigger a call from the STARS Air Ambulance emergency centre.

If the call is not answered, first responders will then be dispatched to the user’s location to determine if they’ve overdosed.

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Andrea Robertson, president and CEO of STARS Air Ambulance, says often when emergency personnel respond to drug-related calls at private homes they arrive too late.

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“The DORS app will change that by giving us the ability to get to people sooner,” Robertson said. “We are pleased to be the emergency response partner in this new app so that emergency services can play a role in keeping Albertans alive.”

According to government statistics, 70 per cent of overdose deaths in Alberta in 2020 occurred in a private residence.

Further statistics indicate 60 to 80 per cent of opioid-related fatalities in Calgary and Edmonton from 2018 to 2020 occurred in suburban neighbourhoods outside the downtown core.

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“People who use drugs at home are a hard-to-reach segment of the population,” Calgary zone EMS spokesperson Curtis Swanson said. “We have, unfortunately, had many fatal overdoses in private homes in suburban areas.”

“This new technology will connect those individuals with emergency services, as well as treatment and recovery services to assist them in taking the steps towards long-term recovery.”

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Speaking at a Monday news conference, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan said this last year has been “especially difficult” for people with substance use disorders.

“Sadly, 1,128 Albertans lost their lives as a result of an overdose last year. Each death is a tragedy, and my heart goes out to each family, friend and other loved one for experiencing such a loss,” Luan said.

“Each death highlights just how much more work there is to do to address addictions in Alberta.”

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The UCP says the app will also provide users with information about recovery-oriented supports and services available in their area.

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The government will begin testing the DORS app in Calgary this summer and is hoping to expand it to other communities next year.

The UCP is spending $325,000 for the testing phase of the DORS app, and says operational costs won’t be finalized until the app is expanded across the province next year.

If you or a loved one requires help with an addiction, you can call the Addiction Helpline — a 24-7 confidential, toll-free service — at 1-866-332-2322.

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