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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Stopping Overdoses

Naloxone vending machines reflect the current reality of opioids.

Deaconess Midtown Hospital has a new vending machine, but rather than dispensing drinks or snacks, this one hands out medication that could save the life of someone experiencing an opioid drug overdose.

The machine carries free kits of naloxone, often known by its brand name, Narcan. Naloxone is administered when a person shows signs of overdose, and the nasal spray can block the effect of high levels of opiates in an individual’s bloodstream.

It can reverse the effects of opioid overdose in 2-3 minutes.

The presence of 18 such machines around Indiana demonstrates how serious the epidemic is, and the fact that they are needed is an unfortunate reality, officials say.

“Naloxone vending machines are a practical tool to prevent overdoses and save lives,” says Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who announced the statewide initiative in late 2021.

At Deaconess Midtown, the nondescript machine sits outside the emergency department’s front door. It can hold up to 300 naloxone kits, which are free to access. Each kit includes a single dose of naloxone, instructions for use, and a referral for treatment of substance abuse.

How serious is the epidemic locally? Vanderburgh County Coroner Steve Lockyear says that so far this year, the county has recorded 17 fatal overdoses, with 14 of those having involved fentanyl, either alone or with other drugs.

Emergency departments at Deaconess-run facilities see overdose cases daily, and “Narcan is our first line of defense in saving the individual’s life by blocking the effects of the opioid overdose,” says Marlene Waller, system director of Deaconess Emergency Services.

The machine will be kept stocked by the Evansville Recovery Alliance, a branch of the Indiana Recovery Alliance, which advocates harm reduction for drug users.

Evansville Recovery Alliance Co-founder and Executive Director Lavender Timmons defines harm reduction as “doing what has to be done to protect individuals and community health because it is the right thing to do.”

The vending machine at Deaconess Midtown Hospital isn’t the only location where naloxone is readily available. According to the Evansville Recovery Alliance, 24/7 self-serve boxes are at Ivy Tech Community College Door C, Evansville Comprehensive Treatment Center, Boyett Treatment Center, Salvation Army, ECHO Community Healthcare clinics, and NOW Counseling Services.

Learn more about naloxone by visiting https://optin.in.gov/faq.html. To request free naloxone kits, visit https://www.overdoselifeline.org/.

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