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Get the Msg! New Zealand's Txt Drug Info Channel

MEDIA RELEASE

31st August 2006

Get the Msg! New Zealand’s Txt Drug Info Channel

Run The Red mobile enablers and The New Zealand Drug Foundation, with support from the Vodafone Graduates, are launching a new free text-based drug information service for the txt generation: "Get the Msg".

Get the Msg is a text message information service that allows people to text drug names, including common street names, to DRUG (3784) and receive safety information and links to further information and help.

Director of Run The Red, Justin Boersma, said he and his team were delighted to be involved in the Get The Msg project.

“The mobile channel is perfect for this service, because we can communicate with youths in a compelling, cost effective, easy, and above all, discrete manner”.

“The Txt Drug Info channel also enables people using the service to get information back about the consequences of drugs in ‘real time’, which could make a huge difference to the choices people make”.

Mike Burns, the Vodafone Graduates Project Manager, also agrees with the value of this txt base service.

“This has been a great project to co-develop. It has been fantastic to see three organisations coming together to help the community. We look forward to watching it grow and develop at the hands of Vodafone customers.”

The Get the Msg service launches today for a four month free trial period on the Vodafone network. Get the Msg is planned to be available for other networks following this trial period.

All partners agree that this has been a fantastic project to get involved with, and all look forward to seeing more initiatives like this from organisations in the future.

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Get The Msg! Q&A’s

What is this service?
This service is a free text message information service where users can text the names of drugs, including common street names, to DRUG (3784) and receive safety information and links to further information and help.

This service will have a significant benefit to young people. Using one of the most effective youth communication channels, Get the Msg will provide factual health information about drugs to inform and assist them to make good decisions. The service will also benefit parents and others who work with young people.

What's the number?
The service uses the TXT short-code DRUG (3784)

Who is involved with the Get the Msg?
Get the Msg is a collaboration between the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Run The Red mobile enablers and Vodafone. The Drug Foundation provided the content, Run the Red provided the mobile and technical support and Vodafone provided support and enabled the service to be free for the four month trial period.

How many countries operate similar services?
New Zealand is the second country in the world to operate this service, following Ireland. The Irish service sent out 40,000 text messages in the first month of operation, after originally anticipating only 10,000 in the first six months.

Michael McDonagh, from the Irish Drugs Awareness Programme, Crosscare, recently said:
"… We have been inundated with calls and media coverage with people constantly commending the service … We had a primary target audience of Young People between the ages of 13 to 21. Lots of feedback to date has come back not only from Young People but from Adults who used the service as a first contact and have now gone on to access our face to face counselling service (these would be people who were either unwilling or afraid to access traditional services before)."

Who came up with the idea?
The project is an initiative of the Vodafone Graduate Programme, a scheme where recent graduates champion a corporate responsibility project. The Vodafone Graduates approached Run The Red and the Drug Foundation to participate in the scheme and all agreed that it would be a valuable service to be involved in.

A service like this was launched in Ireland earlier this year so Vodafone Ireland and the health stakeholder there were able to provide valuable guidance on what might be successful in New Zealand.

Who can use the service?
For the trial period of four months, anyone with a Vodafone mobile phone that is capable of sending and receiving text messages can use the service. Vodafone currently have 55 percent of the New Zealand mobile phone market by customers and Vodafone is a brand that the youth of New Zealand strongly identify with.

After the four month trail period the service will be extended to other networks (subject to a successful review?)

What happens after the trial period?
Get the Msg will be comprehensively evaluated to see if it meets the needs of young people and those that work with young people.

If the evaluation demonstrates effectiveness, the Drug Foundation will examine ways to continue the service and extend the service to all mobile customers.

What about incorrect names or spelling mistakes?
The database of drug names includes many variations, including slang, street names and common misspellings. If there are names that the system doesn't recognise, it will ask the user to try another name. It will also report back to the operators with new names and misspellings so that it can stay up-to-date and evolving with the latest names for drugs and new substances.

What if someone needs help or in serious trouble?
The system will pick up certain key words, for example HELP, and advise them to either call 111 in an emergency or the Get The Msg 0800 number (0800 693 784). This system can act as a portal to a helpline and treatment services and further information.

How many slang terms?
Get the Msg contains over 400 name variations on common drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. The system will continue to update to reflect new variations and new substances.

ENDS

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