A mobile app launched two years ago by Interior Health is being lauded for successfully preventing toxic drug deaths in B.C.
“The Lifeguard Digital Health App has a proven track record of keeping people safe and is an important part of our government’s response to the toxic, unpredictable illicit drug supply,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson said in a press release.
The province said since its launch in May 2020, the app has been used by more than 9,000 people in B.C.
There have been 104,783 sessions, resulting in 132 ambulance calls with 96 “confirmed OK” callbacks to the app user. There have been 28 drug poisonings reversed and, most importantly, there have been zero deaths reported by Lifeguard.
In Interior Health, there were 12,084 sessions (May 2020 – May 2022) including 14 ambulance calls. In April 2022, there were 422 sessions within Interior Health.
Once downloaded on a mobile device, the app is activated by the user before they take their dose. After 50 seconds the app will sound an alarm.
If the person using the app doesn’t hit a button to stop the alarm, indicating they are fine, the alarm grows louder and if the individual does not respond, the app will trigger medical assistance with a call to ambulance services.
“I have used the Lifeguard app while using on my own and also when trying a new substance to ensure I would have help if needed. It’s a great app,” said one person with lived experience with substance use.
According to the most recent figures released from the BC Coroners Service, 11 people died from overdose in Penticton. As of the end of April this year, there were 13 deaths in Vernon and in Kelowna, which has a population about four times greater than both Penticton and Vernon.
The Okanagan as a whole accounts for 54 of the 117 overdose deaths in the Interior Health region between January and the end of April.
Throughout the province, 161 lives were lost to toxic illegal drugs in April, the second-highest total ever recorded for the month.