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Alberta smartphone app intends to reduce overdose deaths in drug users at home

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Alberta government has expanded a smartphone app aimed at preventing overdoses in people using drugs alone at home.

Mike Ellis, associate minister of mental health and addictions, said Wednesday the app is confidential, free and available across the province, including in rural and First Nations communities.

The app alerts emergency responders if a person using substances has signed in and becomes unresponsive to a pre-set timer.

“If a person doesn’t respond to the alarm they will get a call from the fine folks right here at STARS. If an emergency response is required, STARS will contact EMS to dispatch an ambulance to the person’s location,” Ellis said at the STARS emergency link centre in Calgary.

“We know sadly that about 70-per cent of opioid-related deaths happen in private residences, often alone. The reality of addiction is that it drives people into isolation and when using opioids this can be extremely dangerous.”

Alberta recorded its deadliest year on record for drug overdoses in 2021 with more than 1,700 deaths.

The app was introduced last summer, but was only available in Edmonton, Calgary and surrounding areas. It’s similar to British Columbia’s Lifeguard app.

Ellis said so far the app has been downloaded 900 times with 440 registered users. He said there have been numerous successful medical deployments.

Ellis didn’t provide any details.

Darren Sandbeck, senior provincial director and chief paramedic, Alberta Health Services, said it’s another tool to help people in trouble.

“We in EMS see the impacts of the opioid crisis every day and we support this app as another means of supporting individuals who use opioids,” he said.

“If, while you were using alone, this app will be your buddy, the one who can call for you when you or someone else cannot call 911 for help.”

Mike Lamacchia, the chief operating officer of STARS Air Ambulance, said when it comes to overdoses, time is of the essence. He said the app gives them the ability to get to people sooner.

“Sometimes when emergency responses happen to a drug-related call at a private residence it can be too late,” he said. “This expansion means simply that we can help more people.”

Earl Thiessen, the executive director of the Oxford House Foundation, which helps people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, said he supports the application and has personal knowledge of the consequences of opioid addiction.

“We are raising my sister’s children after her fatal overdose while using alone in suburban Calgary. I would have insisted she used the Digital Overdose Response System when she used alone,” said Thiessen.

Harm reduction advocates, including the national group Moms Stop the Harm, questioned the app when it was brought in last year.

The United Conservative Party government has been focused on recovery care and has been criticized for limiting access to supervised consumption sites and injectable opioid agonist therapy.

Lori Sigurdson, NDP critic for mental health and addictions, said the app is a useful tool, but does not do enough to address the horrifying death toll due to drug poisonings in the province.

“The UCP government is refusing to act on clear medical evidence and practices supported by experts. There are proven health care interventions that save lives, but the UCP have reduced access to them,” she said in a release.

“The UCP failure to properly respond to this crisis is costing lives, costing taxpayers, and using up already scarce resources in our ambulance and hospital systems.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2022.

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Alberta

From Cafe Owner to Political Activist at the heart of the Alberta Prosperity Project

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The COVID pandemic has turned Central Alberta Cafe Owner Chris Scott into nothing short of a lightning rod.

Many business owners grumbled and suffered through a couple years of mayhem due to wave after wave of COVID and the various restrictions affecting day to day operations.  Where most business owners zigged, Scott, as they say… zagged.

Chances are you know something about his story as he’s been in the news and seemingly on a never ending speaking tour ever since this all started.

You likely won’t be surprised to know Chis Scott is still operating his cafe, still facing court charges, and heavily involved in trying to influence Alberta politicians.

No matter what side of this discussion you fall on, no matter what you think of the business owners, doctors, and religious leaders who stood in defiance of covid restrictions, this conversation will help you understand where those who have emerged as leaders of those who stood up to the health restrictions are putting their attention in the summer of 2022.

If you’re interesting in learning more about the Alberta Prosperity Project.

If you’re interested in WS Full Steam Ahead

 

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Alberta

Voting deadline looms in race to replace Jason Kenney as Alberta UCP leader, premier

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EDMONTON – It’s deadline day to buy $10 Alberta United Conservative Party memberships to vote for the next leader and premier.

The party is accepting drop offs by 5 p.m. and online memberships until midnight.

The party will then go through the memberships and confirm information and expects to have the final tally ready in two weeks or so.

Seven candidates are on the ballot seeking to replace Premier Jason Kenney in the party’s top job.

Kenney announced in May he was quitting after receiving a lukewarm 51 per cent support in a party leadership review.

The next key date in the race is the second debate, slated for Aug. 30 in Edmonton.

The candidates have been proposing a range of policy ideas from health care to education reform, but the focus of debate has been on how to leverage Alberta’s relationship with the federal government to get a better deal in areas such as equalization.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

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