Nearly 1,300 Albertans died from fatal drug poisonings in 2020

New statistics released by the province Tuesday show 1,281 Albertans died of drug poisonings in 2020, the highest total recorded in a single year. 

In 2019, the number of deaths was 797, down from the 957 in 2018.

The numbers were released as Jason Luan, the associate minister for mental health and addictions, announced a new smartphone app aimed at preventing fatal overdoses.

The Digital Overdose Response System was developed by Alberta company Aware 360. It will be tested in Calgary this summer and expand to other areas of Alberta next year. 

The new app comes nine months after the government cancelled a phone-based supervised consumption service just before it was launched by Alberta Health Services. 

Luan was unable to explain to reporters how the DORS app differed from the in-house option cancelled in June 2020. 

Some people who worked on the phone service were moved to help develop the smartphone app, he said. 

“I think the vision, the idea, to create something virtually can reach out to those who are stuck in addiction and have a way to connect them for assistance to support them is a great idea,” Luan said.

The DORS app sends an alarm to someone while they are using opioids or other addictive drugs. If the user fails to acknowledge the alarm, emergency services are dispatched to an address that was entered earlier into the app interface.

British Columbia started using a similar app called Lifeguard last year.

The Alberta DORS app cost $325,000 to develop

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