St. John Ambulance launches new National Drug Alert System
January 31, 2023 By Julie Forget

Last Updated Thursday, December 22, 2022 2:49PM UTC

OTTAWA, ON (December 12th, 2022) – St. John Ambulance is proud to announce the launch of a new innovative national Drug Alert System to help combat the opioid crisis that has had a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities across Canada.

Created through the St. John Ambulance Accidental Drug Poisoning Crisis – Community of Practice (ADPC-CoP) program, this nation-wide Drug Alert System will provide as close as possible to real-time information regarding the contaminated drug supply in Canada. The alert system comes after many months of hard work and collaboration from several harm reduction organizations and drug checking services across Canada. This system was made operational through funding provided by Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addiction Program (SUAP).

The St. John Ambulance ADPC–CoP is a national initiative that aims to connect people with lived and living experience, frontline workers, and anyone impacted by the drug crisis to discuss ideas, challenges, and knowledge of current trends and practices in a safe space.

“St. John Ambulance is very excited to be launching this key pillar of our opioid poisoning response programs,” said Martin Gangnier, national Chief Executive Officer at St. John Ambulance. “The drug crisis in Canada continues to be a significant public health crisis and unfortunately shows no signs of ending any time soon. It is essential that we give Canadians access to lifesaving, judgment-free tools such as this national Drug Alert System, as well as continuing to provide opioid response training to communities in need.”

“Too many lives have been lost to the overdose and toxic drug supply crisis in Canada, with the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating these longstanding challenges. Our Government is proud to support St. John Ambulance in the launch of its national Drug Alert System, an important initiative that will allow people who use substances and those that support them to receive alerts with near real-time information related to the toxic illegal drug supply in Canada," said The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health. “We thank SJA for their dedication in decreasing substance use harms and their tireless work in helping to prevent overdoses. Together, we can reduce the harms associated with substance use, save lives, and promote people’s best health.”

During the first two years of the pandemic, there was a 91% increase in apparent opioid deaths. In 2021, the opioid crisis claimed the lives of 7,902 people in Canada, the equivalent to 21 opioid-related deaths per day. A total of 1,883 apparent opioid toxicity deaths have occurred between January – March 2022 alone. This national Drug Alert System will ensure that front-line workers and people who use drugs are kept informed regularly and in near real-time. The alert system will be housed on various platforms to ensure accessibility with the main component of the system being a map-based dashboard that can be accessed through the www.reactandreverse.ca website.

The dashboard displays a list of alerts submitted by partner organizations from across the country. Users will be able to navigate to the location of the contaminated drug supply and learn more information by simply clicking on each alert represented by a pin. Each alert will reveal information about the type of service and the name of the organization that submitted the alert, as well as more information about the substance's street name, expected and suspected composition. Users will also be able to view a picture of the substance and learn more about the risks associated with it, if available.

In addition to the map-based dashboard, alerts will be distributed in near real-time via the St. John Ambulance ADPC-CoP social media channels. People can also sign up to receive email alerts based on their province or territory of interest. Quarterly reports based on the submitted alerts will also be generated to better understand the trends of contaminated supply across the country, which will also able be made available through the www.reactandreverse.ca website.

St. John Ambulance partner organizations, consisting of harm reduction agencies and drug checking services, supply information about a tainted substance in their area in real-time; the information is then used to populate the interactive map-based dashboard. If your organization is interested in collaborating with this initiative, please contact Efe Aigbede at efe.aigbede@sja.ca for more information.

This program was funded by a contribution from Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent Health Canada.

About the St. John Ambulance Accidental Drug Poisoning Crisis Community of Practice

The St. John Ambulance Accidental Drug Poisoning Crisis Community of Practice (ADPC–CoP) program is a national initiative with the goal to connect frontline workers, organizations, agencies, and people with lived and living experience to enable them to discuss and share ideas, challenges, and knowledge of current drug trends and practices in a safe space. They will be able to learn and share resources with one another and to collectively devise a community solution. Learn more at www.reactandreverse.ca.

About Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program

Through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP), the Government of Canada provides grants and contributions funding to other levels of government, as well as community-led and not-for-profit organizations, to respond to current drug and substance use issues in Canada. Since 2017, it has supported more than 200 innovative projects across Canada.

About St. John Ambulance

St. John Ambulance is an international humanitarian organization with a 139-year-old history of saving lives in Canada. In any disaster, human or natural, our volunteers are there to offer assistance, expertise, and compassion. St. John Ambulance also offers innovative first aid/CPR programs and related services, ensuring Canadians receive the best quality training. Revenue generated from first aid/CPR training supports St. John Ambulance's charitable work. Learn more at www.sja.ca.

Contact:

Julie Forget
Director, Marketing & Communications
St. John Ambulance National Office
Cell: (819) 210.2064 | Julie.forget@sja.ca