COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — In some American cities, accessing of a life-saving overdose treatment is now as easy as buying a bag of chips. The Fountain-based Discount Vending Store builds custom vending machines that can be stocked with Naloxone nasal spray and Fentanyl test strips.
"It is free, you don't have to give them a credit card or money or anything like that," explained company president Jeff Cramer. "Just come up and touch the item and it will vend for you."
The business started 15 years ago primarily assembling snack and soft drink machines. Cramer said he frequently builds more complex machines that can hold everything from hair and beauty products to baby diapers and wipes. They have also developed age-verification systems for vending machines that sell CBD products.
Cramer said phone started ringing a few months ago with requests for the Naloxone machines.
"So, we asked, what size do you need, and he sent some samples, and, of course we're able to do that," Cramer recalled. "A few days later we got another phone call, a few days later we got another."
This increase in orders comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data Thursday showing 2022 was the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths in the United States.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration reports roughly 6 in 10 fake prescription pills intercepted in 2022 contained potentially fatal levels of Fentanyl. Test strips can help users detect the presence of Fentanyl. Colorado lawmakers removed language that classified test strips as drug paraphernalia in 2019.
Cramer and his staff have already built 10 Naloxone machines and have orders for 30 more. All of the current orders have come from clients out of state. However, Cramer said they are in talks with some potential clients in Colorado.
The clients are primarily non-profit organizations with access to federal grants. The machines will be located at public libraries, police stations, universities, and gas stations.
"Wherever the public is, they're trying to get these out there," Cramer said.
He explained the self-serve nature of vending machines makes them more inviting to someone who may shy away from visiting a pharmacy to get Naloxone.
"Being able to go to a vending machine that's out in the public, accessed 24/7, they don't have to talk to anyone, they don't have to admit that they have a problem or that their friend has a problem," Cramer said.
The Discount Vending Store developed custom software for clients to offer greater control over distribution of the Naloxone and test strips.
For example, one client wanted the ability to have people enter a special one-time code to access the Naloxone. Another wanted users to enter their zip code as a way to collect data about drug abuse trends.
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