A new text-based health alert system has been launched across the Interior Health region in response to the ongoing toxic drug emergency. Drug alerts play an important role in empowering people who use drugs to do so more safely.
The Toxic Drug Alert system uses text messaging to send alerts as a public health measure to prevent drug poisonings and deaths. The system is also aimed at providing timely information and up-to-date resources to people who use drugs alongside families of drug users and the wider community.
People who use drugs, those who support them, and community members are encouraged to opt-in for toxic drug alerts by sending the keyword JOIN to ALERTS (253787). They will receive toxic drug and drug poisoning alerts and, in the future, this will include other public health alerts, such as COVID-19-related information.
An additional feature aimed at helping keep communities safe is the ability for subscribers to anonymously submit information relating to toxic drugs or drug poisonings via text using the keyword OD.
“Across the province – in every community – we continue to see tragic deaths due to the toxic drug supply. The new alert system is an example of innovation and community collaboration to save lives in this crisis,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Sheila Malcolmson.
Interior Health is the first health authority in the province to be launching the new system which 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. The alert system is expected to expand to additional health authorities this summer.
“We are thrilled to have this new tool available in the Interior to support people and to get information out immediately to those who need it most,” said Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown.
“As the number of lives lost continues to grow, we are focused on removing barriers to support, and implementing new strategies to prevent drug poisonings and deaths and mitigate harm from the toxic drug supply.”
Sara Young, manager of Harm Reduction at BC Centre for Disease Control, said, “The priority is to get people access to safe supply, but while we’re waiting, toxic drug alerts will be really helpful in letting us know what is going around in our communities and can help people make harm reduction decisions for themselves.”
One person with living experience who was involved in developing the new system had this to say: “I have been so glad that I have been getting the drug alerts in my area and surrounding areas because anything that is in the surrounding areas is going to make it here eventually. I used this information to prepare myself for any toxic drugs that could be coming our way by doing smaller testers, trying to get samples into the drug testers, asking my peers what they think and informing my peers of the drug alerts.”