Vending machine dispenses free Narcan to those in need

The Saginaw County Health Department now has a Narcan vending machine.
The Saginaw County Health Department now has a Narcan vending machine.(Saginaw County Health Department)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 10:03 AM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - A mid-Michigan health department recently installed a Naloxone (also known as Narcan) vending machine.

The vending machine is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes Bay Region and is accessible at the Saginaw County Health Department, 1600 N. Michigan Ave. in Saginaw.

The vending machine is a vital tool to address the opioid crisis and stigma of substance abuse, the health department said.

“You’ll have people overdosing on drugs they never thought would even affect them in that way so it’s really important that everyone has this on them,” said Andrea Foster, chief of staff and director for program development, opioid response with the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance.

The vending machine, which is free of charge, dispenses fentanyl test strips to detect the presence of fentanyl in street drugs, and Narcan – a life-saving opioid overdose-reversal tool bystanders can use to revive someone long enough to get first responders on the scene.

The products are free to anyone, no questions asked, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m.

“Overdose deaths are a growing public health concern,” said Christina Harrington, health officer for the Saginaw County Health Department. “In 2020, 2,171 Michiganders died by opioid overdose – 55 in Saginaw County alone.”

The vending machine is part of an ongoing partnership between the health department and the CAREring Quick Response Team, which is made up of the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance, Ten16 Recovery Network, Mobile Medical Response, and other partners.

“It’s just a great element around harm reduction, so a lot of times we just don’t ever really know who might be using in our community,” Harrington said. “They can be family, they can be friends, and you don’t know when you might experience an overdose.”

Support for the vending machine was funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“This is an incredible opportunity to get help and hope into the hands of not just people who use opioids or other substances, but every community member,” Foster said. “Naloxone is vital to battling the opioid crisis and lethal doses of fentanyl are turning up in more and more substances. You never know when you may need to save a life.”

The vending machine is the first of many. There are plans to place one in Bay County and another in Saginaw County later this year.

“It’s all about reducing the stigma by making sure that life-saving medication is available to help people when they might need it and you never know when you’re going to need it,” Foster said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call SAMHSA’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-662-HELP.