NYC’s first public health vending machine offering naloxone, fentanyl test strips and more emptied in less than a day

NEW YORK – This week New York City health officials unveiled the city’s first free public health vending machine featuring items like naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and safer drug use kits, but according to several news sources, the machine was emptied in less than 24 hours.

As Emily’s Hope told you earlier this year, the vending machine in Brooklyn is the first of four machines that will be installed in New York neighborhoods hit hardest by the opioid crisis. The city has witnessed a surge in overdose deaths, mirroring a national trend. According to the city’s website, 2,668 people in NYC died from drug overdoses, compared to 2,103 in 2020. Fentanyl was involved in 80% of those deaths.

“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.

The vending machine aims to prevent deaths by providing free Naloxone to reverse overdoses, fentanyl test strips to detect if fentanyl is in a substance, and “Safer Smoking” kits that come with a pipe, mouthpiece and lip balm. According to the New York Post, the machine also contains “Safer Sniffing” kits, condoms, tampons, nicotine gum and first-aid packages.

Instead of paying for the item, people simply punch in their zip code. Even though the machine was emptied so quickly, city officials plan to keep them restocked.

Elan Quashie, the Opioid Overdose Program Director at Services for the Under Served, told Daily Mail, “We’re going to restock every day, probably multiple times a day.”

The vending machines have not come without controversy. The New York Post reported that City Councilwoman Joann Ariola said, “Our city should not be commodifying addiction, and anyone supporting these vending machines should be ashamed of themselves.” Ariola also questioned why the money spent on the machines wasn’t used on rehabilitation and social services instead.