Public health officials in New York City on June 5 unveiled the city’s first “public health vending machine,” which offers everything from an overdose-reversing drug to crack pipes and fentanyl test strips.
Officials with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene welcomed the unveiling of the machine, located at 1676 Broadway in Brooklyn, just outside a supportive housing facility run by Services for the Underserved (S:US).
According to a press release from the Department of Health, the vending machine is the latest tool aimed at helping “reduce stigma and barriers to services” among drug users as part of the city’s fight to reduce the number of overdose deaths by 2025.
Similar machines located in other areas across the United States such as in Las Vegas and Cincinnati, as well as in Europe and Australia, have proven to be successful at reducing rates of overdose and infectious disease, health officials said.
The machine will “promote 24/7 access to lifesaving harm reduction supplies” in a convenient and anonymous manner, officials said.
“We are in the midst of an overdose crisis in our city, which is taking a fellow New Yorker from us every three hours and is a major cause of falling life expectancy in NYC,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “But we will continue to fight to keep our neighbors and loved ones alive with care, compassion, and action.
“Public health vending machines are an innovative way to meet people where they are and to put life-saving tools like naloxone in their hands. We’ll leave no stone unturned until we reverse the trends in opioid-related deaths in our city.”
‘Health and Wellness Supplies’
Along with naloxone (sold under the brand name Narcan) kits, fentanyl test strips, condoms, and birth control packs, the machine offers an array of other “health and wellness supplies” such as pipes to allow for “safe” smoking of substances like crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin; nicotine gum; first aid kits; and other “health” related items.
The vending machine is the first of four that will be installed in neighborhoods in New York City with the highest overdose rates, CBS News reported.
Additional machines are set to be unveiled within the next year. At a press conference Monday, Vasan said those machines may also be fitted with syringes used to inject heroin and other drugs.
In order to get their hands on the free supplies, users need to enter their NYC zip code followed by the numerical code listed below the product.
S:US will regularly restock the machine and include items that “meet the needs of the local community alongside harm reduction supplies,” according to officials.
Less than 24 hours after the machine was unveiled, it was empty, Mail Online reported.
The machine cost the city $11,000 to install, according to reports, and is part of Democratic Mayor Eric Adams’s plan to reduce overdose deaths by 15 percent by 2025. Increasing access to free naloxone is part of the city’s plan to help reduce those deaths.
Overdose Deaths on the Rise
There were 2,668 overdose deaths in New York in 2021, compared to 2,103 in 2020, according to the NYC Department of Health. Approximately 80 percent of those overdose deaths in 2021 involved fentanyl, a highly addictive and potent opioid.
In the first half of 2022, there were 1,370 confirmed overdose deaths, officials said, noting that if the current trends continue, 2022 will be the deadliest year on record for overdose.
Adams has yet to publicly comment on the unveiling of the new vending machine.
However, Perry Perlmutter, interim president and CEO at S:US, called the vending machine a “game-changer,” adding that along with providing life-saving tools that prevent overdoses, the machines also offer “essential items that can improve the quality of life of all New Yorkers, regardless of their income, insurance, or housing status.”
“By installing machines like this one in strategic locations, we are fulfilling our commitment to reducing harm, promoting wellness, and supporting recovery for our most vulnerable communities,” he said.
Yet while health officials welcomed the new vending machines, city Councilwoman Joann Ariola, a Republican, condemned the move on Twitter, writing that the city “shouldn’t be commodifying addiction & anyone supporting these should be ashamed.”
“The money spent on these machines – which are providing free crack pipes btw- should be spent on rehab services to actually help addicts, instead of fueling their addiction,” Ariola wrote.
Along with the vending machines, the Adams administration has also announced plans to launch a number of so-called “safe injecting sites” across the city by 2025, under which drug users can bring their own drugs and use them while being monitored by medical professionals, the New York Post reported.
From The Epoch Times