Scaling And Centralizing Toronto’s Drug Checking Service

Earnest Community

Scaling and centralizing Toronto’s drug checking service

Earnest Community

Toronto’s unregulated drug supply has had a long standing record of posing dangers due to being contaminated with unexpected and noteworthy drugs. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city had seen an alarming spike in drug-related overdoses which had already been rising exponentially each year. In an effort to address the risks associated with substance use, Toronto’s drug checking service was launched, offering people who use drugs timely and detailed information on the contents of their drugs as well as tailored harm reduction strategies.

With ambitions to consolidate the program, improve real-time monitoring of the unregulated drug supply and future-proof operations, Toronto’s drug checking service needed a management tool to bring their fragmented processes together. That’s where we came in.

Future-Proofing An Essential Service

Our goal in working alongside Toronto’s Drug Checking Service was to understand the unique challenges they face and create a web-based solution to manage all data associated with the service. This meant that the conceived tool, “Earnest,” would facilitate the automation, centralization, and scalability of the public health service and include key features which would help facilitate the collection, transport and analysis of samples.
The Earnest app brings together all pieces of the drug checking process into a single user-friendly tool. Online surveys for collecting samples, paper logs for tracking chain of custody info and souped up excel files for reporting results are now a thing of the past.
To ensure compliance with Canada’s legal framework for handling drugs, the tool is made easily auditable by including a chain of custody log for each sample.
To ensure compliance with Canada’s legal framework for handling drugs, the tool is made easily auditable by including a chain of custody log for each sample.
Ensuring scalability for future growth was an essential component of this project. With a dedicated admin portal, adding a new collection or analysis site is as simple as clicking a button.

Deepening Community Awareness

Since launching in October 2019, Toronto’s drug checking service has checked over 9,000 samples from the unregulated supply, including small amounts of substances or drug equipment after it has been used. Nearly half of these samples were checked in a 14-month period since launching the Earnest app in February 2022.

Beyond improving the service’s operating efficiency, the Earnest app has helped improve the accessibility of drug checking services throughout the city and allowed for more effective real-time monitoring of the unregulated drug supply.

“We cannot understand how we ran this program without it.”

– Karen McDonald, Lead, Toronto’s Drug Checking Service

Every other week, Toronto’s drug checking service aggregates results from all samples checked and publicly reports trends in Toronto’s unregulated drug supply on their website. This information is shared in an effort to enable harm reduction workers and clinicians to tailor the care they provide to people who use drugs, while also informing research and policy decision-makers.

Explore More Projects

Ready to build your next great project with us?