A screenshot from the Nal-Pal app shows what it would look like if a person in distress called for help. (File contributed/Derek Jacoby)

A screenshot from the Nal-Pal app shows what it would look like if a person in distress called for help. (File contributed/Derek Jacoby)

B.C. university to launch app to link drug users with Naloxone kits

Researchers have spent the last year developing the Nal-Pal app

An app designed to connect drug users with naloxone kits is set to launch in January.

The Nal-Pal App, designed by University of Victoria students under the guidance of researcher Derek Jacoby, received a $15,000 grant from the South Island Prosperity Project in March 2018, and since then the developers have been researching and designing.

Part of the research included speaking with intravenous drug users in partnership with AIDS Vancouver Island about what they thought.

“It was a good confirmation that this would address part of the problem, but we learned quite a lot,” Jacoby said.

ALSO READ: Victoria woman shares her painful experience with opioid addiction

From the interviews, the team realized that the largest target audience probably wasn’t drug users living on the streets, since they’re usually surrounded with other users with naloxone kits or near downtown resources.

Instead, the target audience would be users who make up the majority of deaths from opioid overdoses — suburban people using drugs on their own.

“This could allow the app to work in a preventative way,” Jacoby said. “For example, if someone was about to use they could send out a message asking for someone to check in on them in a few minutes.”

A screenshot from the Nal-Pal app shows what it would look like if a person in distress called for help. (File contributed/Derek Jacoby)

ALSO READ: Youngest opioid overdose victim in B.C. last year was 10 years old

Another thing the research revealed was that most people don’t want a help message sent out to a wide audience, as the app had originally been designed to do.

“Often somebody is going to be evicted if emergency services shows up at their door,” Jacoby said. “People suggested if messages could be sent to a specific list of people, like their neighbour, instead.”

ALSO READ: Reducing harm with ‘I carry naloxone’ buttons

The app is set to have both a customized option to send a help message to certain people, or a wider distress call that will alert anyone else with the app that a naloxone kit is needed.

A screenshot from the Nal-Pal app shows what it would look like if a person in distress called for help. (File contributed/Derek Jacoby)

Jacoby also noted that while most people with a drug dependency have cell phones, most don’t have access to data plans, so the app has been developed to rely on text messages that can link to maps. If the person has a data plan, it will also send to the web server.

An Android version of the app will launch in January and be tested out by a group at AIDS Vancouver Island; test scenarios and drills will also be run to test for potential issues, such as multiple calls at once. An iOS version of the app is likely to be launched in June.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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