Opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels. The Department of Health and Human Services reports drug overdoses as the leading cause of injury death in the United States. This year, in the city of Baltimore, Gov. Larry Hogan labeled the opioid epidemic an emergency.
With heroin at the helm of this crisis, six Baltimore teenagers are taking matters into their own hands in response to this serious call to action. The high school students have been spending their Saturday's at the offices of Code in Schools, a computer science education nonprofit in North Baltimore, building a tool using mobile devices to address part of the city's heroin crisis.
Bad Batch Alert is an anonymous free text messaging service aimed at helping those struggling with heroin addiction to stay alive in Baltimore City. Using data aggregated from the city's Emergency Medical Services, the service sends a text alert to all registered users in that area whenever there is a spike in overdoses. Sharp increases in heroin overdoses is typically an indicator that a lethal batch of tainted heroin is circulating in the neighborhood. A second component of the service aims at providing support and recovery tools for addicts. Texting “Van” to the service will show users the location of the nearest needle exchange van, and another command provides access to a 24-hour crisis line.
Overdose spikes happen weekly. In an interview with Technical.ly Baltimore, Michael LeGrand co-founder of Code in the Schools said that these the spikes are “rare enough and specific enough to your neighborhood that this will have an effect and save lives.” In addition to building the service, the six students have also been hands-on, talking to people in the community and gaining a deeper understanding of the opioid epidemic. “It was the first place I’ve been able to write code that actually did something, that went into a program,” said 16-year-old Gavin Gomel-Dunn.
Salute to these students for leveraging technology to resolve a real issue in their community. Click here to register for the Bad Batch Alert service.