The city of New York is doing all it can to combat the deadly opioid crisis that has taken an unprecedented toll in recent years, and this week marked a major step in its attempt to bring the heartbreaking problem under control.
On Monday, the City of New York unveiled its first-ever public health vending machine, featuring free drug paraphernalia and anti-overdose meds for addicts. The big blue box was installed in Brooklyn, and officials believe it could save lives by providing life-saving Naloxone to drug users who have overdosed on opioids, along with instructions on how to use the drug.
The machine is also offering free hygiene kits and safe sex kits, nicotine gum, tampons, and first-aid packages to anyone with a valid New York City ZIP code.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
The statistics back up the need for such a drastic measure. In 2021, 2,668 people in New York City overdosed, and 84 percent of those overdoses involved an opioid. Fentanyl, a particularly deadly synthetic opioid, was involved in an astonishing 80 percent of all overdoses, according to the NYC Department of Health.
Officials are hoping the addition of the public health vending machine will improve these dire statistics. Similar machines have had success in other cities around the world, and the city is planning on installing three more machines in other neighborhoods hit hard by the opioid crisis.
The box will be hosted by the nonprofit group Serving the Underserved (S:US). “This public health vending machine will be a game-changer for this part of East Brooklyn,” said Perry Perlmutter, interim president and CEO at Services for the UnderServed. “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.”
It remains to be seen whether the vending machine will be a successful attempt to bring an end to the opioid crisis, but it’s clear that the City of New York is doing all it can to combat the problem. Time will tell if this innovative idea will be able to help turn the tide in the fight against addiction.