PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Vending machines stocked with Narcan have been installed by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office at three separate locations, officials announced Wednesday.
Funded by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Use Program (COSSUP), the vending machines serve as a tool for the sheriff’s office to help combat opioid overdoses due to the fentanyl epidemic.
“Making Narcan available and free of charge can help prevent overdoses. Narcan quickly blocks the effects of opioids on the brain — allowing a person suffering breathing problems due to an overdose to be revived,” CCSO said. “The vending machines allow people to access the drug without having to interact with anyone else, potentially bypassing the stigma or embarrassment of reaching out for help.”
The vending machines will be located at the Clackamas County Jail, Transition Center and Parole & Probation Office.
“Many people we interact with have unmet needs,” said Melanie Menear, who helped develop the program. “Oftentimes, people are seeking resources, but they don’t necessarily know where to go, or they don’t really enjoy interacting with people. Having something like a vending machine, where it really is a no-contact thing, they will have the option to answer a couple of questions and provide their contact information or remain anonymous before their items are dispensed. For anyone who indicates they would like help or needs resources, our community partners will reach out to them to help meet their needs.”
Melanie Menear, a Clackamas County Jail healthcare administrative services manager, said she hopes it helps reduce the number of overdose deaths in the county.
“We are similar to other counties in the state of Oregon, and we currently are seeing more than we would like to see in overdose deaths – particularly from fentanyl,” she said.
Menear said the new “no-contact” machines are designed to make Narcan more accessible, so those struggling with addiction and their families can access the live-saving drug without shame or stigma.
“This provides you a way to access the medication without going into a pharmacy or contacting a primary care doctor,” she said. “It helps you keep it more confidential than some of the other means that we have.”
Recent data shows Clackamas County saw a 66% increase in drug related deaths from the 41 deaths recorded in 2019 to the 68 in 2021. KOIN 6 asked Menear what she would say to those who believe increasing Narcan access might incentivize drug abuse.
“I think it’s a fair assessment. However, on the flip side, I think what we’re really doing is empowering individuals to seek the means to help,” she said.
While the main purpose of the vending machines is to dispense Narcan, CCSO says they will also offer free hygiene products such as soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, HIV testing kits, pregnancy tests, condoms and feminine hygiene products.
Menear she hopes that by reducing barriers and increasing access to Narcan, the machines can help save lives.
“There is someone somewhere that is touched by substance use disorder, and we are no different here at the sheriff’s office,” she said. “My hope is that we can help reduce the incidence of overdose deaths in our community… and that we are seeing more of our community members that are surviving overdose rather than passing away.”