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Health, Science and Technology

Cal Poly students, SLO County partner to develop opioid overdose death prevention app

opioid app
Photo by Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub)
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The web app provides people with access to opioid overdose response training and a complimentary naloxone kit, confidentially delivered to their homes. The County of San Luis Obispo Behavioral Health Department launched the web application Jan. 25.

Opioid overdose is an increasing problem in the United States. According to the CDC, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths across the nation in 2019. 70 percent of those deaths involved either prescription or synthetic opioids.

A group of Cal Poly students partnered with San Luis Obispo County to develop an app aimed at preventing deaths from opioid overdoses.

The app is called Naloxone Now, named after a medicine known to reverse opioid overdoses.

Community members can use the app to find the nearest location in SLO County to get naloxone or have it delivered for free. The app also provides opioid overdose response training that helps users learn how to administer naloxone and potentially save a life.

Reilly Salkowski is a Cal Poly student participating in the university’s Digital Transformation Hub, or DxHub. She was the lead developer for the app and said prior to working on this project, she had no idea there was even a treatment for opioid overdoses.

Salkowski said she hopes the app increases awareness.

“I just really hope it makes these resources, specifically naloxone, a lot more accessible to people," Salkowski said. "Just to spread this information as far and wide as it can go, I guess, would really be my goal.”

The SLO County Behavioral Health Department and the SLO Opioid Safety Coalition pitched the app idea to the DxHub as a way to fight the opioid epidemic locally.

According to the California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, the state saw more than 5,500 opioid-related deaths in 2020. During the pandemic, opioid-related deaths have increased by over 30 percent nationally.

In SLO County alone, the death toll more than doubled from 21 in 2019 to 55 in 2020.

Salkowski said while the app is localized for SLO County users, its code is open source, so it can easily be expanded for use in other areas.

“Anybody — any county — can just add resources that are specific to them," Salkowski said. "Just about anybody can use the framework that’s set up and adapt it to their needs.”

The Naloxone Now app is fully launched and accessible here.

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