THUNDER BAY — NorWest Community Health Centres is partnering with a software developer to implement what's being described as a lifesaving overdose prevention app.
The Lifeguard app was developed by Lifeguard Digital Health in Vancouver.
With the support of the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board, NorWest is the first facility in Ontario to partner with Lifeguard DH in a pilot project.
The app has been in use in British Columbia for the past year.
It provides support to people who use drugs through a direct link to emergency responders if an overdose occurs.
The user activates the app with a one-minute timer before taking drugs. The alarm time can be extended up to five minutes, but if the user fails to hit the stop button it will grow louder until a text-to-voice call goes to EMS dispatchers alerting them of a potential overdose.
The app also provides support to people who come across someone who is overdosing, including a Naloxone guide and CPR instructions.
In addition, it includes links to medical advice, a suicide line, and a crisis hotline.
Juanita Lawson, CEO of Norwest Community Health Centres, said the app provides an innovative solution to the area's ongoing overdose crises.
Lawson said she's confident the app can help save lives.
"We are pleased to be working in collaboration with our community partners and in particular Emergency Medical Services," she said.
The district social services' board's financial support for the project is part of one-time funding provided by the Ontario health ministry.
Lifeguard founder Jeff Hardy said the app has helped to save 17 lives so far in BC, where 5,000 people are now using it.
Ontario reported more than 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020, an increase of nearly 60 per cent from the previous year.