New York City health officials will install 10 “public health vending machines” that would dispense sterile syringes, an anti-overdose medication and other “harm reduction” supplies to help neighborhoods hit hard by drug overdoses. The vending machines, planned for neighborhoods in all five boroughs, will carry toiletries and safe-sex kits, said Michael McRae of the city’s health department. All items in the vending machines will be free. The department hopes to have the vending machines on the street this year, reports the New York Times. “This is really about expanding access to health and wellness services,” McRae said. The initiative is a $730,000 pilot program seeking up to six contractors.
The main purpose of the vending machines is to curb overdoses by increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug that works quickly to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. “Every four hours there’s an overdose here,” McRae said. “This is something that doesn’t allow for people to die every hour.” The solicitation for proposals identified several neighborhoods as priorities for the machines, including Central Harlem and Union Square in Manhattan, Far Rockaway in Queens, Stapleton in Staten Island and East New York in Brooklyn. Opioid deaths in New York City have risen significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. There were 2,062 overdose deaths in 2020, the highest total since reporting on overdose deaths began in 2000 and over 500 more than in 2019.