The overdose crisis is an unprecedented public health emergency that has caused a heartbreaking amount of loss in British Columbia. People are dying every day, even as countless lives are saved by the heroic interventions of first responders, front-line workers, peers, family, and friends.
Stigma surrounding issues with addiction result in many people using drugs alone while stay-at-home orders and social-distancing measures have added to the problem. B.C. has witnessed an increase in overdose events and deaths because of overdose since the onset of COVID-19.
Now more than ever it is important we encourage those who are using to “buddy-up” or access local overdose prevention services.
A new made-in-B.C. app, Lifeguard Digital Health, gives those who use drugs in one or more ways to stay safe if using alone.
To use the app and specifically the in-app timer feature, individuals can first start by downloading the app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. From there you can open the timer which is displayed on the app home screen and confirm the location in which you are using. The app will then prompt you to choose a substance from the drop-down menu. Although your substance selection does not change how the timer works, it is helpful for paramedics should they be required in an emergency.
Once you begin the timer and consume your substance an alarm will sound after 50 seconds. If you do not extend the timer or stop the alarm, the alarm will grow louder. If you do not indicate you are okay after 75 additional seconds, a text-to-voice call will go straight to 9-1-1, alerting emergency medical dispatchers of a potential overdose. The dispatcher will then send a paramedic team to your location and at the same time, will continue to attempt to call you.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jeff Hardy, explained this life-saving feature was made possible because of the development of a strong relationship with British Columbia Emergency Health Services (ambulance service in B.C.)
Lifeguard may save someone’s life if they become unconscious or unable to function if using alone. The Provincial Health Services Authority, BC Emergency Health Services, health authorities, and the Overdose Emergency Response Centre have been working closely with Lifeguard Digital Health and Hardy’s team to make the app available to all British Columbians.
Since its launch, Hardy said, “[they] have officially confirmed 41 lives have been saved.”
Hardy envisioned Lifeguard while recovering from his own addiction to alcohol in 2017. While in treatment, Hardy lost his young, vibrant friend, Evan, due to a fentanyl overdose. Hardy recalled that “Evan had been sober for just about six months and had started to get his life back together. For whatever reason, he chose to use just one more time and tragically passed away in his bedroom after ingesting his chosen drug.”
The story of Evan’s death is all too familiar for many British Columbians. Because of this, Hardy dreamed up and worked hard to find a solution to the opioid crisis so that good people, like his friend Evan, could live to discover a lifetime of possibilities.
Lifeguard Digital Health continues to innovate by adding other resources such as mental health services, Naloxone and CPR how-to-guides, and access to a nurse, crisis, and suicide helplines. The app also sends push notifications alerting users of drug alerts, new community resources available, and other relevant news releases.