New text service, Bad Batch Alert, hopes to save addicts and reform them

Posted at 11:18 AM, Aug 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 23:23:38-04

The Baltimore City Health Department is fighting the opioid epidemic any way they can. Now they're using cell phones.

The health department gave Code in the Schools a grant for $4,500, under their TECHealth program, to create Bad Batch Alert.

"I think a lot of people we know have been affected by this problem," Michael LeGrand works with Baltimore City Public School students at Code in the Schools writing the language that makes the service work.

He personally has been affected by the opioid epidemic. His childhood friend Rachel Vicary was smart. She had a degree in Computer Science, and is a chess whiz. She was known in her New York borough as the local mechanic fixing motorcycles.

Vicary struggled with her secret, addicted to heroin since her first hit in high school. Her last dose was in 2016, and it had carfentanil, a horse tranquilizer.

"One county over these drugs were there and it killed a bunch of people, one county over and when it came over it killed her too... No matter how careful you are, when these things are mixed in and they're mixed in in a wrong way you're just dead, you're dead and it's over forever, all the hope and promise and all the everything is just gone and it's really sad," LeGrand said.

He took her death extremely hard and kept thinking about what he could do to help others in Vicary's position. With a background in computers, and being the Co-Founder of Code in the Schools he created Bad Batch Alert with students' help.

The text alert system is as easy as sending a message. You type "Join" to 952-BBALERT (222-5378), then choose where you would like to get alerts from.

"You pick the neighborhood you're interested in, it may be where you're using it may be where you are buying, it may be where your daughter lives it's really about where you think the risk area is, whoever you're loving and trying to take care of," LeGrand said.

The Health Department provides data from EMS workers who administer Naloxone to revive a patient.

When an algorithm detects an irregularity in the number of overdoses in a specific geographical region, Bad Batch Alert sends out a text.

Code in the Schools worked on this project since October of 2016, and launched in June of 2017. So far they've sent three alerts.

"So the idea is to give them a warning that there's a dangerous situation and hope that they can use it in a way that saves their or a loved one's life," LeGrand says, hoping people change their habits.

"It would be really cool if somehow her death led to something that can save lives, you know I feel like that would be good for her memory," LeGrand said somberly.

He hopes to build a legacy for Vicary with every text.
LeGrand has big dreams to expand this statewide, and other states are already asking them how to make it work for them.
LeGrand is also working on lock boxes packed with tech and naloxone, thinking if someone is overdosing and a friend calls 911, emergency crews could direct that person to a nearby lock box (while on their way), remotely open it and allow the friend to administer the drug to stop the overdose.
Ideally, LeGrand says these boxes would be distributed throughout the city, and assembled by kids so they get the technical experience.
Students at Code in the Schools learn about coding and bump up their resume in preparation for college and jobs in the field of computer science.