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Harm reduction non-profit expands text alert system to Dayton

A map of SOAR's text alert system
A map of SOAR's text alert system

A statewide harm reduction nonprofit that provides resources to people who use drugs expanded their text alert system to the Dayton area this month. The SOAR Initiative said in an interview with WYSO that their text alerts keep people informed of deadly drug batches and overdose surges sometimes days earlier than police or hospitals can spot the trends.

They do that by crowdsourcing their information from people who are testing their drugs—for things like fentanyl and xylazine—and from the frontline workers who serve people who use drugs.

Pranav Padmanabhan, SOAR Initiative's executive director, said he hopes their text alert system can combat the stigmatization of people who use drugs.

"Someone might recreationally try cocaine at a party, but they don't know that 13% of the cocaine in Ohio has fentanyl in it. For someone who is opioid naive, taking even just a little bit of fentanyl can kill them," Padmanabhan said. "So we're really targeting those people that are at risk of overdose but may not be aware of it."

The text alert reporting system is anonymous and encrypted. SOAR verifies the reports they receive with local health agencies when they can.

Another part of SOAR's work is giving away free fentanyl test strips on their website.

Subscribe for SOAR initiative text alerts for the Dayton area at 937-744-7627 and the Cincinnati area at 513-447-6276.

Recovery from addiction is possible. For help, please call the free and confidential treatment referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP) or visit findtreatment.gov

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.