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Island Health launches drug-poisoning advisory text messages

People in the Island Health region can now get drug-poisoning advisories in their area via text messages.

Island Health says the need for the text-based system is driven by an increase in deaths due to the toxic illicit drug supply in the province.

In 2021, there were 2,224 deaths due to the toxic illicit drug supply. Island Health says this was the highest-ever number of annual overdose deaths in B.C. since a public health emergency was declared in 2016.

In 2022, the first 10 months show at least 1,827 people have died in B.C. because of toxic illicit drugs.

The BC Centre for Disease Control and the Office of Virtual Health developed the system and Island Health is the third authority to use it in B.C., with Fraser and Interior health authorities introducing it this year.

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Anyone can join anonymously by texting JOIN to 253787 and subscribers will get notifications when drug-poisoning overdose advisories are sent to specific areas.

Island Health says they share information about increases in toxic drug poisonings in the Island Health region and provide tips for safer drug use.

Minister of mental health and addictions Jennifer Whiteside says the system will help keep toxic drugs out of people’s hands.

“Separating people from the toxic drug supply is one of the most important ways we can prevent drug poisonings and death,” said Whiteside. “This new alert system is one more critical tool available as the province expands harm reduction measures while connecting people to lifesaving supports.”

Peer project coordinator Beth Haywood adds it will help clients and peers stay aware of what’s happening in their communities.

For more information, visit Toward the Heart.

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