New vending machine aims to reduce health risks linked to drug use

New vending machine aims to reduce health risks linked to drug use
Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 3:45 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A new vending machine in Northside is offering up more than snacks.

Instead, the vending machine supplies items for safer sex, smoking, and injection kits.

The vending machine sitting outside of Caracole is considered a pilot program. Caracole is a nonprofit AIDS service organization.

It is the first in the region, and as far as Caracole knows, this is only the second such vending machine in the country.

“So, we’re really excited about having a chance to innovate in terms of engagement with our reduction,” said Executive Director of Caracole, Linda Seiter.

The vending machine is a no-touch option for people to get a safer injection and safer smoking supplies, as well as fentanyl test strips.

“They can’t just go up to the machine and press buttons and get supplies,” said Seiter. “There’s a process that people have to go through to get the code to dispense the supplies.”

It also provides pregnancy tests, safer sex kits, and sharps containers for the safe disposal of syringes.

“Our hope is to get life-saving materials into the hands of people who need and will utilize them, and in addition, disease prevention is top of the list as well,” said Associate Director of Prevention, Suzanne Bachmeyer. “So many, if not all, the supplies provided allow people to have access to disease prevention and life-saving tools.”

It’s also important for people to know the process is confidential.

“It’s confidential and anonymous,” said Bachmeyer. “Then the person can walk up to the machine with a client code, enter the client code and make selections on what items they want.”

Leaders say a major benefit is that the vending machine supplies the overdose-reversing drug Narcan.

A social media poll asking about what they thought of this new tool in the community had a variety of responses.

Sixty percent of people were in favor of the vending machine, while 40% were skeptical.

One person responded by saying, “this is great.” But other responses included comments like, “this is crazy. It basically gives drug users a free pass to continue their destructive lifestyle.”

“I don’t think access to syringes, Narcan, fentanyl test strips, any of those things encourage drug use in any way,” said Seiter. “If people are going to use drugs, they’re going to use drugs. I don’t think giving access to supplies encourages anyone to experiment with drugs like heroin.”

Caracole staff is available Monday through Friday to answer phone calls about the vending machine. They are in the process of getting 24-hour coverage, which will be built in shortly.

They plan on keeping this up post-pandemic.

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