In 2020, 44 Americans died daily from a prescription opioid overdose – 16,000 in one year. 100,000 Americans died from illegal, or street opioids, like fentanyl, last year alone. Now, a new program is designed to provide help.
With skyrocketing numbers of opioid overdoses and deaths, public health experts and communities nationwide have tried to develop programs to distribute naloxone – also known by the brand name Narcan – to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Now, a novel program, according to the numbers, might be working.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati paired with the non-profit group – Caracole – to provide supplies from what they call “harm-reduction vending machines.”
Director of Prevention at Caracole, Suzanne Bachmeyer said, “Safer injection kits, injectable naloxone, and nasal naloxone …”
Those – and more – all readily accessible in a secure machine that resembles a vending machine. People call a number to get a code to access supplies. Bachmeyer and UC researcher Daniel Arendt, said it may feel counterintuitive to provide free naloxone and fentanyl test strips to people struggling with addiction.
“We do not believe that providing supplies to keep people safe, to keep people from overdosing and to keep people from contracting infectious diseases enables them in any way,” he said.
The vending machine has been operational for two years. More than 1,000 people have used it and researchers say it’s contributing to a decrease in overdose deaths in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.
Arendt said, “It’s, again, important to recognize, nationwide, up 15%, preliminary for us, down 10%.”
Advocates say the harm reduction program – that keeps the supplies locked but within reach anonymously – may eliminate any fear of arrest or reprisals.
Bachmeyer said many other health organizations and community groups nationwide have contacted them to learn more about their program. A second vending machine is now in place in another Ohio county. They say the program is funded entirely by private grants and donations.