VANCOUVER -- Imagine being able to know how to save a life by just looking at your smartphone. That’s the aim of the new Overdose Intervention App, which is being touted as the first emergency overdose response digital platform.

The app allows users of different communities and language backgrounds to respond rapidly to an overdose emergency.

“It’s been a terrible year,” said Upkar Tatlay, developer of the Overdose Intervention App. “We do have an extremely toxic drug supply on the streets right now.”

According to the latest numbers from the BC Coroners Service, there were 175 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in the month of July. That equates to about 5.6 deaths per day. The July 2020 total represents the third consecutive month in which the number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in BC has surpassed 170.

“So, it’s really critical, if we are seeing these numbers, that we empower everybody to respond to this crisis,” said Tatlay.

The Overdose Intervention App features a 9-1-1 calling option, techniques to identify a suspected overdose, steps to administer naloxone and step-by-step instructions to administer first aid.

“The stereotype of a user, it exists, but it’s not the only user anymore,” Tatlay said. “The user now looks like me too. It’s your middle class, upper class, your blue collar, white collar, it’s the weekend warrior … It could be anybody.”

Creating the app is one thing, but getting in the hands of people who need it most takes outreach.

“The Overdose Intervention App is really a key tool that we utilize in our outreach efforts,” said Allysha Ram, coordinator of the South Asian Local Mobilization and Outreach Network. “It’s imperative that we’re out there engaging in this outreach work, increasing awareness of the issue, reducing stigma surrounding it and providing information and resources as to where individuals being affected by substance use can go for help,”

A key focus of the outreach is on minority communities.

“Substance use and overdose is highly stigmatized in the South Asian culture. So, often individuals may be discouraged from speaking about the substance use challenges they may be viewing in their home,” said Ram. “They might even be discouraged from acknowledging there’s a problem and due to the stigma surrounding this topic people may not feel comfortable expressing that they do have substance use challenges. So that’s why it’s important for us to really target the South Asian demographic.”

The app is available for free on both Apple and Android devices. More information about the Overdose Intervention App can be found on its website.