Special to 1831Galion

Crawford County Public Health has partnered with Avita Health System to provide harm reduction vending machines outside the emergency department entrances at Bucyrus and Galion Hospitals.

These machines provide free, easily accessible life-saving tools and disease prevention supplies. They are stocked with naloxone (Narcan® or Kloxxado®), fentanyl test strips, at-home COVID-19 test kits, male condoms, and female condoms. Community members have 24-hour access to the machines, and all of the items are free. The process is easy – just select the item’s code as if using a standard drink or snack vending machine. No other information is required.

“The vending machines are simply a way to connect people to harm reduction supplies,” explained Kate Siefert, Health Commissioner at Crawford County Public Health. “Similar machines across the nation and in other parts of the world have already successfully demonstrated that they contribute to reducing rates of overdose and infectious disease. The vending machines are a way to meet people where they are and to put life-saving tools in their hands. Every member of our community deserves care and compassion with access to supplies that can improve their quality of life.”

The machines at Bucyrus and Galion Hospitals were installed on October 17th. In the first week, 900 free products were distributed to community members, including 199 naloxone, 302 fentanyl test strips, 236 male condoms, 67 female condoms, and 96 at-home COVID-19 test kits.

“When the opportunity came up to put harm reduction vending machines outside of our emergency rooms, we knew this was another way we could contribute to helping reduce the rates of overdose and the spread of infectious diseases in our communities,” said Jerry Morasko, President/CEO of Avita Health System. “We are grateful for the work the Crawford County Health Department does for the area and are happy to partner with them on this initiative.”

Harm reduction vending machines help reduce drug overdose deaths, as well as decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19, HIV, Hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections, and more. They have been used in other countries since 1987 when Denmark introduced the first one. They were launched in the United States in 2017 and have grown in prevalence as the overdose crisis has worsened over the last several years.

“In 2022, all of the Crawford County overdose deaths involved use of fentanyl, often mixed in with other drugs,” added Siefert. “These machines are not meant to be ‘end-all’ solution, but they are certainly an important way to demonstrate that our community is willing to bring the tools needed to help save lives. Addressing the opioid crisis requires a community to keep doing more. More tools, more education, more harm-reduction, more stigma-reduction, more treatment, more outreach. We need to just simply keep doing more.”

The machines in Crawford County are funded by the Drug Overdose Prevention Grant and maintained by Project DAWN. Crawford County Public Health stocks the vending machines daily Monday-Friday but cannot guarantee availability of products.

Source, Photo: Avita Health System