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Narcan has been the one saving grace in the fight against the opioid crisis. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Narcan has been the one saving grace in the fight against the opioid crisis. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Philadelphia seeks to lower overdose rates with Narcan vending machines

The effort is coming shortly after reports that the U.S. topped 100,000 overdoses last year.

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May 27th, 2022

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City of Philadelphia officials are seeking to curb the rate of overdose deaths in the city by distributing Narcan in a new way, and placing the medicine in vending machine-style dispensers..

Currently, two of these dispensers are planned to arrive in South and West Philadelphia, says the city’s Department of Public Health.

The dispensers will be monitored to learn when Narcan is most utilized and to know when the dispensers need to be refilled.

News of the planned effort came the same day as grim reports were released revealing over 100,000 overdose deaths nationally in 2020.

The report revealed that the national rate of overdoses went up 29%. Approximately 1,214 people died of overdoses in Philadelphia during this period.

It also showed that overdoses among Hispanic populations rose 1%, rose 29% amongst Black residents, and dropped 10% amongst white residents. 

In an effort to reduce the rate of overdoses, and avoid the rate rising further, the vending machines are to be implemented. The new program will be called Narcan Near Me.

Jose Caraballo Jr., manager of environmental services at the Philly Health Department’s Division of Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction, supported the idea after observing the impact of Narcan supplied in some portable restrooms where overdoses may occur.

The new Narcan dispensers will be introduced to various parts of the city, particularly focusing on areas hit the hardest by overdoses.

Narcan, also known as naloxone, is a life-saving medicine used to avert death by reversing the effects of an overdose. City officials hope to make the medicine more readily available in the case of overdoses.

“It’s an amazing start... in saving lives,” said Rosalind Pichardo, an outreach worker in the city.

While this will be Philly’s introduction to Narcan dispensers, some parts of the country such as Las Vegas have similar dispensers in use.

The Health Department is working to identify potential sites, focusing on areas where Narcan is not often available.

The effort hopes to also combat the rising presence of fentanyl in drugs such as cocaine. Fentanyl contributed to an increase of 1.5% of deaths in 2020, and resulted in over 979 fatalities.

Narcan is currently available to residents, but PA officials hope to make the medicine more available in the immediate scenario of an overdose.

NextDistro is an organization that provides Narcan to individuals that would benefit from the greater supply.

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