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Digital Overdose Response System coming to Alberta

By Sophia Lopez, April 6 2021—

In a recent press release from the press secretary of the associate minister of mental health and addiction of the government of Alberta, Kassandra Kitz, it was announced that the Alberta government is helping fund a new app that will help prevent opioid overdoses in Alberta.  

“Alberta’s government provided [a] $325,000 grant to Aware360 Ltd. to develop the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS),” said Kitz.

Kitz explained how Aware360 Ltd. is an Alberta-based company who has had success with a similar program for lone worker safety. “They worked closely with expert addictions physicians from Alberta Health Services, emergency services, police, families, and other professionals to develop this solution,” she said.

Steve Matthews, CEO of Aware360 Ltd., expressed in the press release how thrilled he is to work with the Alberta government to provide an app that would be able to help a lot of people who may be alone in drug-related situations. 

“For over 15 years, Aware360 has been successfully providing state-of the-art technology solutions to Alberta employers to monitor and support staff who are working alone. We are pleased to partner with the Alberta government to bring our tested technology solutions to the addiction care system,” said Matthews.

Opioid overdoses in Alberta are a serious issue that has only worsened due to COVID-19. According to Kitz, in 2020 1,128 people died in Alberta from opioid overdoses, and this number continues to rise. In a statement from Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, he emphasized the importance of this app for Albertans.

“We know that most people who fatally overdose in Alberta, do so in a private home. Among the first of its kind in Canada, the DORS app will help prevent opioid and other substance-related deaths by those using alone at home,” said Luan. “Launching this app is another important step in building a full recovery-oriented continuum of care for addiction treatment in the province.”

Although the app isn’t quite ready to be released yet, Kitz describes how the Aware360 Ltd. app would work and what exactly people can expect from it. 

“The system provides a direct link to life saving EMS intervention and uses technology that is already tested and reliable. It provides a user-friendly interface and allows Albertans using opioids or other drugs alone to summon emergency response to their location if they become unconscious. The user will start a timer, and when it runs out, the system will alert the user through an alarm. If the user does not stop the alarm, it will trigger a call from the professional emergency response centre, STARS. If the user does not answer the call, the professional response centre will have a direct connection to EMS Dispatch in the event of an unresponsive user and suspected overdose,” explained Kitz. “The app also has the ability to provide information about recovery-oriented services available in the area to get the individual on the path to recovery.”

The DORS app doesn’t have a definite release date as of now, but Kitz ensures that testing will be done this summer in Calgary and will hopefully expand to the rest of Alberta if things go as planned. “The app will be tested in Calgary early this summer and is expected to expand to other parts of the province once the testing phase is complete,” she said.

For more information on what the Alberta government does regarding substance abuse surveillance and their opioid response, visit their website. To watch the news conference, visit the YourAlberta YouTube channel.

The Addiction Helpline is a 24/7 confidential, toll-free service that can provide anyone with information, references and support, and can be reached at 1-866-332-2322.

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