An overdose prevention app will be available in Northwestern Ontario this spring through a pilot program.

Lifeguard Digital Health is working with the NorWest Community Health Centres and the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board in response to the overdose crisis.

The Lifeguard App is designed to support those who use drugs and provides a direct link to emergency responders in the event of an overdose.

“With our commitment to primary health care as well as prevention, the Lifeguard App provides an innovative solution to the ongoing overdose crisis,” said Juanita Lawson, chief executive officer of NorWest Community Health Centres, in a news release.

“By incorporating the Lifeguard App into the services offered in our region, we are confident we cannot only save lives, but nurture safer, healthier communities. We are pleased to be working in collaboration with our community partners and in particular, Emergency Medical Services.”

For the Lifeguard App to work, the user activates the app before taking a dose. It uses a timer with an alarm and if the user fails to hit the stop button, the alarm grows louder until it sends a text-to-voice call alerting medical dispatchers of a possible overdose.

The connection to emergency medical services could mean the difference between life and death.

Another feature of the app is that it can provide lifesaving information to someone who finds a person who is overdosing by including a Naloxone guide and CPR instructions. The app also provides a link to 811 for medical advice, a suicide line and a crisis hotline.

The Lifeguard App was developed in Vancouver and has been credited with helping save 17 lives.

In 2020, more than 2,000 opioid-related deaths occurred in Ontario, which is a 59 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2019.