The New Lifeguard App Can Help Prevent Overdose Death

May 21, 2020. Article by: Government of B.C.

The overdose emergency has caused a heartbreaking amount of loss in B.C. Many people who have lost their lives to overdose died at home, alone. If you or someone you know uses drugs, there are ways to reduce the risk of overdose. One way is to never use drugs alone. But recently, social distancing orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic have made it more difficult for people to have someone with them when they use drugs.

Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, explains:

As we stare down two public health emergencies – the overdose crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic – we must ensure that people who use drugs have the resources they need, when and where they need them.

A new made-in-B.C. app gives people who use drugs one more way to stay safer. The Lifeguard app connects people to emergency responders automatically if they are unresponsive. It can be downloaded for free on your smartphone or tablet through both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The app is being rolled out in phases across the province and will be available everywhere in B.C. by the end of June.

Knowing that the majority of people who use drugs use alone in shelters, hotels, or at home, in addition to the challenges of social distancing, the Lifeguard app is a new and innovative approach that can directly link people to emergency responders if an overdose does occur.

In the first 60 days that LifeguardApp was piloted, nine lives were saved.

How the app helps people

LifeguardApp supports people who are at the highest risk of overdose death: people who use substances alone.

90% of overdose deaths happen when people who use drugs are alone. By the time someone is found by family or friends and emergency responders arrive, it is often too late to save their life.

This app empowers people who use drugs to take charge of their health and helps them to survive accidental overdose.

App users can access treatment options quickly and easily, directly through the app. This means that users can remain safer until they are ready to start their journey to recovery.

How it works

When someone is about to use, especially alone, they can open the app and record the type of substance they are using and confirm their location. The app will hold this information, and a timer is set which can be paused or extended by the app user at any time. 

As the timer ends, the app will sound an alarm, flash a light, and vibrate. The user must hit a button to stop the alarm and indicate they are fine. If they are unable to stop the alarm, a text-to-voice call will go straight to 9-1-1. This alerts emergency medical dispatchers of a possible overdose. It may save someone’s life if they become unconscious or unable to function when using alone.

The app can be used anywhere there is data or wifi.

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 to make the app available to British Columbians. During the past two years they have tested and piloted the app in controlled environments.

 

If you or someone you know uses drugs, it is safest to use with a friend or access overdose prevention services and supervised consumption sites, if they are available. If you suspect an overdose, call 9-1-1 right away.

 

Call 8-1-1 for information on recovery and addiction treatment services in your area, or to speak to a registered nurse or pharmacist.

Search for services in B.C. using the Mental Health and Substance Use Service Map.