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Clinic Bathroom Alarm Helps Prevent Fatal Overdoses

BOSTON (CBS) - It's often an addict's most frequent choice to get high, a public bathroom. Recovering heroin addict Richard Guido knows something about that.

"Bathrooms are a safe zone.  Once you lock it you have water, a mirror," said Guido.

At Boston Health Care for the Homeless, a walk-in clinic offering medical services, it was becoming too frequent a place for addicts to overdose until electrician John King came up with a sensor system that's been saving lives.

Bathroom alarm
Sensor in bathroom at Boston Health Care for the Homeless (WBZ-TV)

When someone enters one of three bathrooms at the facility and closes the door a detector in the ceiling is immediately engaged.

It's a reverse motion detector and if there's no movement for two minutes an alarm immediately alerts security and a medical team can quickly respond.

"Before there was a chance someone would die and we wouldn't have the opportunity to save them. With this equipment we can get to them before something serious happens," said Barbara Donahue, facilities and security director.

Bathroom alarm
Alarm outside bathroom at Boston Health Care for the Homeless (WBZ-TV)

The success of the system is in the numbers, since there have been no fatal overdoses since it was installed in the last few months.

In fact, John King originally set the alarm for four minutes, but a faster response time was needed and Richard Guido knows why.

"It's so potent it takes you quick.  Now you don't have time to think, you're done," he said.

King spent months coming up with the alarm system that sounds several times a week.

"It's another tool to save lives," said King.

Donahue says the system has caught the attention of other facilities in the Albany Street area, including Boston Medical Center.

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