Provincial Press Release March 23 @ 11:13am published at 1:15pm
Alberta’s government will be testing a new Digital Overdose Response System (DORS). The mobile app will help protect people using opioids and other substances while alone in their homes.
“We know that most people who fatally overdose in Alberta, do so in a private home. Among the first of its kind in Canada, the DORS app will help prevent opioid and other substance-related deaths by those using alone at home. Launching this app is another important step in building a full recovery-oriented continuum of care for addiction treatment in the province.” Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Albertans using substances alone can utilize DORS, which will trigger a call from the STARS emergency centre if the individual becomes unresponsive to a timer. Emergency response will be dispatched to their location in the event of presumed overdose. The app will also provide information about recovery-oriented supports and services available in the area to ensure people have the information they need on their journey to recovery.
The system will begin testing in Calgary this summer and is expected to expand to other communities next year after the testing phase is complete.
“For over 15 years, Aware360 has been successfully providing state-of the-art technology solutions to Alberta employers to monitor and support staff who are working alone. We are pleased to partner with the Alberta government to bring our tested technology solutions to the addiction care system.” Steve Matthews, CEO, Aware360 Ltd.
Alberta substance use surveillance data shows COVID-19 continues to have a serious impact on those struggling with addiction. In 2020, 1,128 people died in Alberta from opioid overdose. While opioid-related deaths peaked in July, rates continue to remain higher than in previous years.
“EMS is proud to have been an adviser in the development of this application. People who use drugs at home are a hard-to-reach segment of the population. 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.” Curtis Swanson, director, Clinical Operations, Calgary Zone EMS, Alberta Health Services
In 2020, 70 per cent of overdose deaths in Alberta occurred in a private residence. This is similar to trends from previous years and highlights the need for innovative resources to help prevent overdoses. This is particularly important for those using alone in their own residence. From 2018 to 2020, 60 to 80 per cent of opioid-related fatalities in Calgary and Edmonton occurred in suburban neighbourhoods outside the downtown core. More than half of all opioid-related EMS calls are made outside the downtown core.
“Often times when emergency services respond to a drug-related call at a private home, it is too late. The DORS app will change that by giving us the ability to get to people sooner. 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.” Andrea Robertson, president and CEO, STARS Air Ambulance
“When I was using drugs while in active addiction, I overdosed several times. Luckily, I was not alone and emergency services saved my life. I have many friends who used at home alone who are no longer with us. If this professionally monitored system was available, they might be alive today and be living a good life in recovery surrounded by family and friends.” Chris Guerin, person in recovery
The DORS app is one of many reduction measures that receives provincial funding. This includes supervised consumption and overdose prevention services, as well as the Opioid Agonist Therapy Gap Coverage program and the Virtual Opioid Dependency program which currently has no wait list. Free Naloxone kits, which can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose if administered right away, are available at many locations across the province. Alberta’s government remains committed to creating a world-class addiction and mental health system, spanning from prevention to early intervention to treatment and recovery.
The budget for the DORS app testing phase is $325,000, which also supports the development of the app itself. Ongoing operational costs will be informed by the test phase and finalized as the app is expanded across the province next year.
Alberta’s government is investing:
$140 million over four years to enhance the mental health and addiction care system and create more publicly funded treatment spaces. This funding includes $40 million specifically to support the opioid response.
$25 million through Alberta’s Recovery Plan to build five recovery communities (also known as therapeutic communities) throughout Alberta focused on holistic addiction recovery.
More than $53 million to implement more online, phone and in-person mental health and addiction recovery supports to make it easier for Albertans to access services from anywhere in Alberta during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The provincial government also eliminated daily user fees for publicly funded residential addiction treatment, reducing financial barriers to recovery.
The Addiction Helpline, a 24-7 confidential, toll-free service, at 1-866-332-2322, can provide support, information and referral to services.