Austin Gets Its Narcan Vending Machine
Add Austin to the list of lucky cities with its own Narcan vending machine. And add Austinites to the list of lucky U.S. metro residents who now have a crucial harm reduction too at their disposal. And not a moment too soon either. Especially considering the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office report which found drug overdoses to be the number one cause of accidental death in the capital city, as well as its surrounding county. Then again, drug overdoses have become the number one cause of accidental death in pretty much every American community.
The Age of the Narcan Vending Machine
Austin’s Narcan vending machine comes courtesy of an outfit called the NICE Project. The acronym stands for Narcan In Case of Emergency, the outfit’s IG account is niceprojectatx and the machine is located at 4430 Menchaca Rd. Other than access being available 24/7 we don’t know any more about the project. We do however know the Age of the Narcan Vending Machine is now.
Thankfully, other communities know this too, including Battle Creek, Michigan, Las Vegas and South Bend, Indiana. Ace health writer and editor Maggie O’Neill also knows about the urgency. In fact, her incredibly informative Self Magazine feature on the issue provided much of the ammo for this report.
Drug Policy Alliance Deputy Director Sheila Vakharia, PhD, told O’Neill that naloxone vending machines are crucial public health tools. Unfortunately, it’s currently prescription only, which makes the process something of a challenge.
“The overdose crisis has been going on for two decades and seems to be intensifying,” Dr. Vakharia adds.
Indeed. And we don’t only need more U.S. communities to come on board with these machines, we need multiple machines in more communities. That’s why, reports O’Neill, New York City has 10 machines about to go out to different neighborhoods.
Meanwhile in Forsyth County, North Carolina
Forsyth County, North Carolina has also stepped up to the proverbial plate. Yep, the Piedmont Region county, whose seat is Winston-Salem, recently set up its first Narcan vending machine. And while theirs is located in the Forsyth County Law Enforcement Detention Center (FCLEDC) and only open from 8am-8pm, it does represent a positive step in the fight against opioids.
If the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) statement is any indication (and we believe it is), the machine’s placement is actually quite astute.
A “study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill found that individuals leaving jail are 40 times more likely to overdose than the general population, with the highest risk period being in the first two (2) weeks after being released from incarceration.”
And – boom! There you have it. Now drug users can grab a dose or two of naloxone on their way out of jail. And for those critics who think having an overdose antidote will encourage drug use, those above numbers prove them wrong.
The general public will also be able to access the machine. And there is no required interaction with FCLEDC staff.
The Forsyth County naloxone vending machine came about after the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services cited CDC overdose data and applied for a grant. Once the grant was won, the machine was then given to the Forsyth Regional Opioid and Substance Use Team (FROST) to set up and administer.
‘Anything that is life-saving, we want it to be accessible to our community.’ said Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby F. Kimbrough, Jr.
As Fox8 reporters Dolan Reynolds and Alliyah Sims note, Forsyth County is one of five counties selected in North Carolina as a recipient of the equipment. The other four (4) counties include Wake, Cumberland, Buncombe, and Wilkes.
Dr. Vakharia told Neill that a number of factors may persuade someone not to visit a provider to get a naloxone prescription. “There are some states where people have actually been denied life insurance policies because [providers] see naloxone and see you as an overdose risk.” She also says some people may be self-conscious about the stigma associated with it.
Mostly though it comes down to geography and health insurance. As of 2020, more than 30 million Americans had no type of health insurance. And even those that did were often too far away from essential services. It’s kind of difficult to get a naloxone prescription without a health care provider.
Some states have developed prescription work-arounds. Pennsylvania, for instance, has issued a statewide standing order for naloxone which grants opioid addicts access to the medication. It also grants access to their family members and friends.
Other states have seen a rise in public service events. The events, which are generally held by a given community service organization, basically teach residents the what, why and how of the anti-overdose drug. Then they make it available to all attendees.
“It’s a great work-around and it’s helped get naloxone into our communities,” Dr. Vakharia says, “but it still has limitations.”
In the first place, you’ve got to know where to go. Then you’ve got to have the means to get there. Throw in inherent stigma and, well, you’ve got three serious barriers.
Some folks may be allowed to turn to NEXT Distro. It’s a mail-based harm reduction program that distributes naloxone, clean syringes and other helpful reducers. Whether or not it’s available to you is depending upon the state.
Healing Properties Salutes the Narcan Vending Machine
Healing Properties salutes all the community reps that have stepped up and installed Narcan vending machines. We’re especially happy with the law enforcement agencies that have joined the program. The overdose crisis needs everyone on the same side, especially those on the front lines. This shows the building of a very strong bond. Zeus-willing, it won’t be broken.
We’d also like to salute (and thank) Self Magazine‘s Maggie O’Neill, as well as the Drug Policy Alliance’s Sheila Vakharia for providing such essential information. This report obviously could not have been made without their stellar work.
How about you? Are you near a Narcan vending machine? Are you more interested in not needing harm reduction services? Then give us a call. We’ll help sort you out, once and for all.
Photo: N.I.C.E. Project / used with permission