NewsCovering Colorado


Naloxone vending coming to Colorado clinics

Naloxone vending machine.jpeg
Posted at 9:44 PM, Feb 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 08:46:54-05

FOUNTAIN, Colorado — Drug overdose deaths in America have surged in recent years with the CDC predicting more than 112,000 poisonings during the 12 months ending in June of 2023. Fentanyl is causing the worst devastation.

Healthcare professionals from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus want to get the overdose reversal treatment Naloxone into the hands of the public by distributing them in vending machines.

The medical school operates substance abuse treatment clinics in Arvada, Aurora, and Denver through the School of Psychiatry in a program called Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS).

The ARTS clinicians purchased two custom vending machines recently from the Fountain-based Discount Vending Store with funding from a federal grant.

"Substance use disorders are not going to go away," said Shingo Ishida, program director for ARTS. "But if we are going to have patients involved in certain risky activities, we can at least help them make better choices."

That idea of helping patients make better choices is a practice known as harm reduction in behavioral health circles.

"Harm reduction is not a new concept. Putting sunscreen on is harm reduction," explained Michelle Lalinde, a nurse practitioner for ARTS.

"Wearing a helmet when you ride a bike is a harm reduction practice. So is putting on a seat belt and not drinking and driving."

The machine that will be shipped to their Aurora clinic will be stocked with a variety of products naloxone, Fentanyl test strips, Xylazine test strips, and condoms. All products will be dispensed free of charge.

"I don't think it was something that we ever thought let's go try to advertise this," said Bret MacMillian with the Discount Vending Store. "It was more of someone came to us and said can you distribute naloxone in a vending machine, and we're like, yeah, absolutely."

His company builds custom vending machines that can sell everything from hair and beauty products to pet supplies and trading cards. They even have facial recognition technology that can check a user's ID for a machine that dispenses CBD products.

MacMillian said they've filled multiple orders for naloxone dispensing machines from Oklahoma. Potential clients are making inquiries about their machines from other states nearby.

"There's far less labor involved," he said. "You don't have to hire a person to facilitate this. It's all automated which is huge."

Ishida from ARTS said vending machines are less intimidating for someone seeking help with an addiction that carries a lot of stigma.

"It's just a lot easier for them to access these resources through a machine, through an interface that's not personal, but at the same time, anonymous, and I suppose, objective and neutral," he said. "There's no judgment, there are no labels."

The Food and Drug Administration approved naloxone for sale at pharmacies nationwide last March. Doses can cost as much as $45. Ishida and Lalinde believe their vending program can remove that financial barrier for people in need.

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