OpiRescue app aims to reduce opioid overdoses

A new resource to guide Michigan individuals going through an opioid overdose.
The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services is working to bring down the number of lives lost to opioid overdoses with a new resource - the OpiRescue app
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 8:42 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There is a new tool to help prevent opioid overdoses. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released the OpiRescue smartphone app this month. The goal for this app is to help bring down the growing rate of opioid overdoses in our state.

Over 1,900 opioid overdose deaths were reported from January to September in 2022. That number has only continued to climb. That’s according to the state department of health and human services. The OpiRescue app serves as a resource for those who may be going through an opioid emergency.

“So this app will walk you through all the steps and they don’t have to worry about oh no, I forgot to do this, I forgot to call 911 first, those kinds of things. It walks you through the whole process,” Angie Smith-Butterwick, manager of Substance Use, Gambling, and Epidemiology Services for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The process is simple. On the screen, the emergency steps are in order. First, recognize an opioid overdose. Symptoms include: unconsciousness, slow or shallow breathing, and fingernails or lips turning blue and purple. If you or the person you’re with is having an overdose, hit the red, “start rescue” button. You’ll want to call 9-1-1 immediately. Continue through the steps, showing you how to support breathing, how to administer three forms of naloxone, and monitoring the response. The app also helps the state health department. Reporting reversals on the app allows the health department to see them and can signal where hotspots are so the health department can redirect their resources to those that need them.

Smith-Butterwick says, “If we need to ensure we have post-overdose response teams available or additional Narcan available in that area, we can do that. We have mobile crisis, mobile care units that go around and we can drive those units to those areas to disperse Narcan, do trainings for people, have information available.”

Users can report a reversal, find naloxone available at a local pharmacy, find treatment, and other opioid-related services on the OpiRescue app.

There was over 107,00 predicted overdose deaths last year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Michigan, drug overdoses now account for more deaths than car crashes. From January to September of 2022, the number of overdose deaths was just under 2,000. The increase in overdoses, is primarily due to fentanyl.

“We have this fentanyl problem or somebody might order some thing through the mail because they can’t get a prescription for it and they think maybe it’s something fairly benign,” Smith-Butterwick says.

Fentanyl is cheap, easy to make, and easy to import since it’s easy to hide. Those make up a large part of the problem. Drug-dealers want to make their substance desirable to their customers, but that comes with a deadly risk.

“Could be Adderall or something like that that, they think they’re getting but it’s actually fentanyl or it has fentanyl in it, enough to the extent if they’re using it like they think they could use whatever was they ordered, that could be a real problem,” Smith-Butterwick says.

From the growing concern of fentanyl found in every substance, you can find fentanyl test strips through the Syringe Service Programs and other harm-reduction programs. All you have to do is take a little residue from your container, mix it with some water, dip the test-strip in and see if you’re safe.

Right now, the MDHHS says the app will soon have additional naloxone distribution spots located on the app. You can download the OpiRescue app off the app store for free.

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