Expanding overdose prevention services in Edmonton

Written by on October 8, 2021

Expanding overdose prevention services in Edmonton

October 07, 2021 Media inquiries

The Digital Overdose Response System (DORS), a mobile app designed to help Albertans using opioids and other substances while alone in their homes, is now available to everyone in Edmonton.

The DORS app can be downloaded to a smart phone free of charge from any app store or via DORSApp.ca. When using the app, Albertans will receive a call from the STARS emergency centre if they become unresponsive to a timer. If an overdose is suspected, STARS will immediately dispatch emergency medical services to the person’s location.

Additionally, Alberta’s government is exploring options for new supervised consumption services (SCS) in underserved areas of Edmonton. It is clear there is an unmet need south of the river as people currently need to go downtown to access consumption services. The first location being considered for expanded SCS is the Strathcona area to meet this geographic need.

“More than 70 per cent of opioid-related fatalities happen at home. The Digital Overdose Response System will help prevent fatalities for people who are using opioids at home. If you are in Edmonton, use the DORS app when using opioids and other substances, especially when using alone.

“For people in Edmonton who do not use at home, having supervised consumption services outside of the downtown core will make these services more accessible. This additional overdose prevention capacity in Edmonton will help reduce the harms of drug use.”

Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

Opioid related fatality data from June and July shows that Edmonton is experiencing more opioid related harms than the rest of Alberta. Excluding Edmonton, opioid related fatalities across Alberta are down 32 per cent from June to July.

On average 70 per cent of opioid-related fatalities in Alberta occur in a private residence, which is consistent with data since 2017. The Digital Overdose Response System will be the first tool that is specifically meant to support those using opioids and other substances at home.

“Every life lost to overdose is a tragedy. You are not alone, help can be just one click away. The DORS app can prevent fatal overdose from happening. Please spread awareness that the app is now available in Edmonton and Calgary. Our loved ones, our families, our friends and neighbors – their lives matter and their safety is important. The DORS app can be a safety line.”

Lerena Greig, executive director, Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Society

“Alberta’s Digital Overdose Response System is a made-in-Alberta solution to the tragic issue of opioid addiction. Aware360’s technology solutions have been keeping Alberta workers safe for more than 15 years. Together, we are using cutting-edge technology to help save lives.”

Steve Matthews, CEO, Aware360 Ltd.

“STARS is proud to support the DORS app. Our emergency response centre, staffed by trained professionals, is available 24/7 to help. Getting medical support to people in need sooner will help save lives.”

Andrea Robertson, president and CEO, STARS Air Ambulance

Overdose in the City of Edmonton is not specific to the downtown core where overdose prevention services are currently concentrated. In addition to the DORS expansion, having overdose prevention services south of the river in Strathcona will make services that reduce harm more accessible to people with addiction. The timeline for implementation and specific location of the new site in Strathcona have not yet been finalized.

Edmonton is also the first city where people can access publicly funded nasal naloxone kits as part of a $1.5 million pilot project. Led by the George Spady Society, nearly 1,500 kits have been distributed to date. While data collection and evaluation is ongoing, the community response to nasal naloxone is extremely positive.

Alberta’s Recovery Plan is helping everyday Albertans access life-saving prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery resources. A $140 million investment over four years is supporting the addition of new publicly funded treatment spaces; the elimination of daily user fees for publicly funded residential addiction treatment; a new patient matching tool Recovery Access Alberta; and services to reduce harm, such as the Digital Overdose Response system (DORS), the introduction of nasal naloxone kits and the expansion of opioid agonist therapy.

Quick facts

  • Additional information on the DORS app, including privacy policy, tutorials, options to be notified when the app is available in other areas and links to download can be found at DORSApp.ca.
  • The provincial government is investing $325,000 into the DORS app testing phase, which also supported the development of the app itself. Ongoing operational costs will be finalized as the app is expanded to additional communities.
  • The DORS app was developed by the Alberta company Aware 360 Ltd., which is uniquely positioned to lead this work given their existing technological solution for the provincial government for lone worker safety. They also have established relationships and coordination with response centres, such as STARS and AHS EMS, to ensure the safe and strategic development of the response triage system.
  • In addition to connecting individuals with emergency services, the DORS app includes information on treatment and recovery services through the addiction resources tab on the app and the DORS website.
  • The free app has the potential to save lives while respecting a person’s privacy. Only a person’s telephone number and location are collected by the app, and STARS will only initiate contact if a medical emergency is suspected. All information is kept confidential.
  • DORS is also available in Calgary and area, with plans to expand to communities across the province in the coming months. The app can be found on the Apple or Google Play app stores or at DORSApp.ca. Sign up at DORSApp.ca/subscribe to be notified when the app is available in your area.
  • July opioid related fatalities are down 14 per cent from June to July.
  • Excluding Edmonton, opioid related fatalities are down 32 per cent provincially from June to July.

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