VCH transitions toxic drug alerts to provincial system
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Starting spring 2023, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) will issue all toxic drug alerts for our region through the provincial Toxic Drug and Health Alerts (TDHA) system. In 2017, VCH created and has since been using the province’s first toxic drug alert system, RADAR (Real-time Drug Alert & Response). Transitioning this service to the TDHA system will ensure people have the option of subscribing to receive alerts for any B.C. health authority on the same platform.
The TDHA system was developed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and Office of Virtual Health at the Provincial Health Services Authority, in partnership with regional health authorities. To subscribe to alerts, text the word JOIN to 253787 (ALERTS). Those already subscribed to receive RADAR alerts have been automatically transitioned to the TDHA system and the RADAR phone number is no longer utilized.
“Highly toxic and unpredictable illicit drugs are everywhere and far too many people are at risk of fatal toxic drug poisoning,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Updating the toxic drug and health alert system will make it easier for people who use drugs to stay informed and stay safe in their communities. This is one important part of the work to address the toxic drug crisis, which includes prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery – all with the aim of keeping people safe.”
The TDHA system allows community members and organizations to anonymously submit information about toxic drugs associated with a drug overdose. Details can include the date and location of a drug overdose, a physical description of the substance and its packaging, where the substance was purchased and what it is believed to be. This information can be submitted by texting OD to 253787 (ALERTS) and it may result in an alert being issued. To find out more, visit Toward the Heart.
“Since VCH first launched RADAR in 2017, public health has issued up to four alerts per month to subscribers advising them of substances associated with a toxic drug overdose. We would like to thank the community for continuing to share this important information. It plays a central role in public health surveillance, reminding people to avoid using alone where possible and to access local harm reduction services. Taking these steps can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing a fatal toxic drug overdose,” said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, VCH’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer.
Toxic drug alerts are one of a number of harm reduction services led by VCH. Drug checking services are also available across many communities where individuals can test their substances at home or at a harm reduction site for the presence of certain contaminants, including fentanyl. This information allows people to take additional steps to reduce their risk of a fatal drug overdose.
For further information about harm reduction services operating in the VCH region, visit the VCH website at vch.ca.
VCH is committed to delivering exceptional care to 1.2 million people, including the First Nations, Métis and Inuit in our region, within the traditional territories of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo-Xai'xais, Lil'wat, Musqueam, N'Quatqua, Nuxalk, Samahquam, shíshálh, Skatin, Squamish, Tla'amin, Tsleil-Waututh, Wuikinuxv, and Xa'xtsa. VCH is British Columbia’s hub of health-care innovation, research and academic excellence, providing specialized care to patients throughout the province.