Friday, May 17, 2024

Text alert system goes live to warn Vancouver Island communities of toxic drug supplies


Drug users can now receive a text message when the supply in their area is determined to be toxic on Vancouver Island.

Island Health set up the text alert subscription to alert the community when there is an influx of drug-poisonings in their area.

Anyone can subscribe to the system anonymously by texting “JOIN” to 253787.

Whenever Island Health issues a warning of drug-poisonings to specific regions and communities, subscribers will receive a text message. 

The notifications will also provide guidance to drug users in the form of tips for safer drug use.

“Separating people from the toxic drug supply is one of the most important ways we can prevent drug poisonings and death,” said Jennifer Whiteside, minister of Mental Health and Addictions. 

“This new alert system is one more critical tool available as the province expands harm reduction measures, while connecting people to lifesaving supports.”

The system was developed by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) in partnership with Toward the Heart and the Office of Virtual Health at the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Island Health is the third health Authority in BC to launch the system following in the footsteps of  Interior Health and Fraser Health. Eventually, the system will be live in all regions of the province.

“The alerts system is now providing vital information to people who use substances and community partners in Interior, Fraser and now Island Health,” says Dr. Alexis Crabtree, public health physician, substance use and harm reduction with BCCDC’s Public Health Response team. 

“Until people who use substances have access to a regulated drug supply, this is one way people can quickly receive information to reduce drug poisoning events and deaths.”

Last year there were 2,224 deaths due to drug-poisoning due to the illicit drug supply, BC’s highest recorded death toll for overdoses. 

So far in 2022, preliminary numbers suggest the death toll due to drug-poisoning is 1,827 in the first 10 months in BC. 

This is just the latest tool in combating the drug-poisoning crisis. More resources are available to those who need them via Island Health’s overdose prevention services webpage.

Curtis Blandy

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