NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 05: A new vending machine in Brooklyn that will dispense free fentanyl and naloxone test strips, as well as hygiene kits, maxi sanitary pads, vitamin C and COVID-19 tests officially opened on June 05, 2023 in New York City. Jointly operated by Services for the UnderServed (S:US) and the city’s health department, the vending machine will only ask for a zip code before allowing customers to choose free items 24 hours a day. New York City plans to place additional free public health service vending machines in other boroughs soon. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK (NewsNation) On the corner of Decatur Street and Broadway in Brooklyn is what looks like a typical vending machine, but up close it’s stocked with medical items meant to help prevent overdoses instead of chips and cookies.
New York City officials on Monday unveiled its first public health vending machine designed to reduce the city’s record drug overdose rate. However, residents living in the neighborhood call it a dangerous experiment.
The free, 24-hour vending machine includes drug test strips, condoms, pipes for smoking drugs, and Narcan to reverse the effects of overdose. The most controversial item inside is the Safer Smoking Kit which comes with a pipe, cigarette holder and lip balm for smoking illegal substances.
Each kit comes with two doses, four milligrams each of the safe drug used to reverse opioid overdose, he said.
Residents need to key in their postcode and enter the item number to get the items from the machine.
There are about a dozen different items to choose from when the car is fully stocked. The $11,000 machine is the first of four the city is installing as part of a pilot program to help save lives in neighborhoods with high overdose rates.
In 2021, 2,668 people died from drug overdoses compared to 2,103 in 2020, according to New York data. About 80% of the fatal overdoses involved drugs related to fentanyl.
Data for 2022 is still being compiled, but the New York State Department of Health said 1,370 fatal drug overdoses were reported in the first six months of 2022.
“We must provide people, communities and our neighbors with everything they need on demand to save a life,” said Ashwin Vasan, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
However, the machine is an eyesore and a source of concern for people who live near the machine. Their main concern is that the machine will attract more users to the community, putting their safety at risk.
The car sits outside a non-profit where drug and rehabilitation counselors run an opioid overdose prevention program that provides health care and housing to underprivileged people battling addiction.
:56 We don’t need it on our block, said Brooklyn resident Keisha Devaughn. The only people who need it in this community are the people in this building. They should put it in the lobby.
New York City officials have no plans to remove the machines, convinced they provide life-saving wellness and support for people battling the disease of addiction.
Is cute. That’s okay because it’s free.
New York City isn’t the first in the United States to have a public health vending machine; Philadelphia and Nevada have also installed them.
NewsNation affiliate WPIX contributed to this report.
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