(Photo: Anna Burns)

(Photo: Anna Burns)

New toxic-drug alert system rolls out in Fraser Health region using text messages

To subscribe, text JOIN to 253787 (ALERTS).

A new text-message alert system flags toxic drugs circulating in the Fraser Health region, with a rollout happening across B.C.

Text notifications are sent to subscribers who want timely information about illicit substances and increases in toxic drug poisonings in their region, the health authority says.

To subscribe, text JOIN to 253787 (ALERTS).

The Toxic Drug and Health Alerts System is managed by BC Centre for Disease Control.

It’s anonymous and free, though standard message and data rates may apply. Details are found on fraserhealth.ca.

Fraser Health notes that illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost. At least 10,326 British Columbians, including 4,046 in Fraser Health, have lost their lives to the illicit drug supply since the public health emergency was first declared in April 2016.

Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, says the text-message alert system “is one more tool that can save lives, along with the treatment beds, prevention, and harm reduction actions we are expanding with urgency,” she added.

The system is also a platform for people to anonymously submit information such as date and location of drug overdose, a physical description of the drug and packaging, where the substance was purchased, and what it is believed to be. For this use, text OD to 253787.

The information is reviewed by harm-reduction teams and used in conjunction with other sources to send text message alerts to subscribers, according to a news release from Fraser Health. “People who use drugs, community partners, emergency departments, first responders, drug user groups, and the BC Coroners Service all help inform alerts.”

The new text system amplifies Fraser Health’s existing email notification system that shares information about specific illicit substances in circulation or sudden increases in toxic drug poisonings in the region.

“The toxicity and unpredictability of the unregulated supply is driving drug poisoning deaths,” says Dr. Alexis Crabtree, with the Public Health Response team.

“Ultimately, we need a regulated drug supply to reduce deaths. It’s also important that, right now, we give people the best information we can about the unregulated supply. The text-based alert system is one way people can quickly receive information and alert others in their communities about particularly dangerous substances.”

Learn more:

Information on the Toxic Drug and Health Alerts service, along with the resources, visit Toward the Heart.

Overdose alerts, prevention and response: Lifeguard App

Signs of an overdose (Punjabi-language video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY5IRzXAD74

Mental health and substance use supports in Fraser Health: https://www.fraserhealth.ca/health-topics-a-to-z/mental-health-and-substance-use#.YBNjb6dKg2w


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