New toxic drug alert text system for Fraser Health and Interior Health areas

Evidence bags containing fentanyl are displayed during a news conference at Surrey RCMP Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A new toxic drug alert system has been launched by Fraser Health, Interior Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

The system will keep community members informed on toxic drugs and other health alerts circulating in the areas through text messages.

“Text notifications are now sent to subscribers who want timely information about illicit substances and increases in toxic drug poisonings in their region,” said Fraser Health staff, in a release.

“Subscribing is easy – simply text JOIN to 253787.”

Managed by the BC Centre for Disease Control, the new Toxic Drug and Health Alerts System is “rolling out across the province to help prevent toxic drug poisonings and overdose deaths.”

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“So many lives have been lost to the toxic drug emergency in Fraser Health and across BC,” says Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The Toxic Drug and Health Alerts System is one more tool that can save lives, along with the treatment beds, prevention, and harm reduction actions we are expanding with urgency.”

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The Toxic Drug and Health Alerts system is also an avenue for people to anonymously submit information such as date and location of drug overdose, a physical description of the drug and packaging, where the substance was purchased, and what it is believed to be.

People who use drugs, community partners, emergency departments, first responders, drug user groups, and the BC Coroners Service all help to inform the alerts.

“The toxicity and unpredictability of the unregulated supply is driving drug poisoning deaths,” said Dr. Alexis Crabtree, with Fraser Health’s public health response team.

“Ultimately, we need a regulated drug supply to reduce deaths. It’s also important that we give people the best information we can about the unregulated supply.”

The text-based alert system is one way people can quickly receive information and alert others in their communities about particularly dangerous substances.”

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The system was developed by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Office of Virtual Health at the Provincial Health Services Authority in partnership with regional health authorities.

Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.

Since April 2016, 10,326 British Columbians, including 4,046 in Fraser Health, have lost their lives to the illicit drug supply since the public health emergency was first declared.

Global News has reached out to the BCCDC for more information such as when other regional health authorities will be implementing the system in their regions.

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