When it comes to reducing the side effects of substance use disorders, an alert system developed in an initiative led by a Boardman High School graduate aims to save lives by reducing fatal overdoses.
The SOAR Initiative is a student-run, non-profit organization established in 2019 by Executive Director Pranav Padmanabhan, a 2018 Boardman graduate and student at Ohio State University, and five other students.
“I became passionate about this problem after seeing the devastation that overdoses have caused in my community, especially growing up in Boardman, where the problem is so prevalent,” said Padmanabhan.
The initiative is now launching its overdose and lethal batch text alert system in Mahoning Valley. It will alert users who have registered for the “lethal batches” service and allow them to flag fentanyl contaminated substances to alert others to the danger.
“Studies have shown that if someone knows there is fentanyl in their drug, even if they are addicted, they will take it more slowly and more carefully,” said Padmanabhan.
The system uses encryption to create an anonymous, two-way communication channel.
“Our text alerts use a service called Twilio, which encrypts all the phone numbers and data people submit about the substances and where they were purchased, and we never store or share any personal data with the community. police. The text system creates an anonymous two-way communication channel that allows addict communities to share information and protect themselves, especially in times of isolation, ”said Padmanabhan.
SOAR launched the alert system in other parts of Ohio last year.
Networks are being set up in central, southwestern and northeastern Ohio, and now in the Mahoning Valley, using data from the county health departments in each of these regions to inform residents. users.
“We launched Text Alerts in Columbus last year and have over 800 subscribers, and we have now partnered with Mahoning County Public Health and Mahoning OhioCAN to launch a separate system for the valley. To register, anyone can just text “SOAR” to 330-476-7627, ”Padmanabhan said.
By anonymizing the app, more community members are likely to use it, Padmanabhan said.
“Because there is so much stigma towards people who use drugs in public health and law enforcement, people are often reluctant to talk about bad batches of drugs even though it could save their life. someone else because they are afraid of being punished, ”Padmanabhan mentioned.
More users will make the app more effective in warning people to take precautions to reduce the risk of fatal overdose.
Padmanabhan and the other students have noticed an increase in overdoses in the community on the OSU campus, he said. They decided to act. Some have started volunteering at Safe Point, a needle exchange center in Columbus. Another harm reduction method that aims to reduce negative medical complications that can accompany substance use disorders is needle exchange.
Hopeanne Lovrinoff-Moran of Mahoning OhioCAN (Change Addiction Now) said engaging in harm reduction policies can save lives.
“Harm reduction is the key to reducing overdose deaths and associated illnesses and illnesses,” Lovrinoff-Moran said.
“People who use drugs live with a health problem, an illness, and they deserve to have all the opportunities and tools available to successfully manage the illness and ensure their safety. “
The new alert system will help reduce the number of deaths as deaths in the Mahoning Valley, state and nation continue in a horrific manner, she said.
“SOAR (warning system) is an important harm reduction tool. By making this app available, we give people living with substance use disorders an opportunity to know what and where contaminated drugs are … and, in doing so, we empower them to make informed choices and adjust how they use the drug of their choice. . ”
The system bridges a “disconnect between health services and the general public,” Padmanabhan said.
“People who use drugs often warn about the wrong batches, but there was no way to get this information to public health officials due to a trust barrier. Plus, health departments had data on where the overdoses were occurring, but no way to communicate it to the public other than social media, which many people don’t have, ”said Padmanabhan.
Padmanabhan is in his fourth year of undergraduate studies at OSU. He plans to become an epidemiologist specializing in drug addiction.
For more information, visit thesoarinitiative.org.