The Metro Public Health Department announced Monday a pilot program to send out text messages about spikes in overdose activity.
The health department hopes the program, which was developed by the Partnership to End Addiction, will reach individuals at risk of suffering an overdose and alert them to overdose spikes.
Health department epidemiologists will determine what constitutes an overdose “spike” by monitoring deviations from the ever-changing average of cases — with careful consideration to the geographic location and dates of overdoses.
Spikes can indicate when drugs in circulation are laced with fentanyl, which is especially deadly, according to Trevor Henderson, the director of the health department’s overdose response program.
“We have a lot of fake pills out there that may look like the real deal,” Henderson said. “If anyone is using an illicit substance in Davidson County, we’re in a situation now that it’s more dangerous than it has ever been. The risk of death is much higher.”
Suspected drug overdose deaths surged during the pandemic, and recent data suggests cases will not be slowing down soon.
Between January and March, the health department recorded 176 suspected drug overdose deaths in Davidson County. That’s a nearly 20% increase from the same period in 2020.
In response to these trends, the health department has been investigating new solutions to reduce overdoses and connect with more communities across the greater Middle Tennessee region.
“We needed more communication tools to get closer and closer to people who are risk of overdoses or family members who may know someone who’s at risk,” Henderson said.
Anyone can sign up for the program by texting SPIKE to 1-855-963-5669. The system will request a zip code and a community designation but will not collect personal data.
General community members, direct service providers, individuals who use drugs or are currently struggling with addiction, and their families are encouraged to participate in the program.
“Notifying the community at risk is much, much more important. We need to be able to share with them as much information as we can and as quickly as we can,” Henderson said.