Narcan vending machine hopes to curb overdoses in Austin


FILE – The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), Dec. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia. The death of a Connecticut seventh grader from an apparent fentanyl overdose has renewed calls for schools to carry the opioid antidote naloxone. The 13-year-old student in Hartford died Saturday after falling ill in school two days earlier. The school did not have naloxone, which is known by the brand name Narcan. But now city officials are vowing to put it in all schools. Fatal overdoses among young people in the U.S. have been increasing amid the opioid epidemic but remain relatively uncommon. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

AUSTIN, Texas (NewsNation) — As more states work to reduce the damage being done by the opioid epidemic, Austin’s first Narcan vending machine now sits outside of a church and homeless shelter.

The N.I.C.E. Project (Narcan in Case of Emergency) partnered with Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center to provide 24/7 access to the life-saving medication. 

“With fentanyl being found in the local street drug supply, Narcan can be very important to have on-hand in case someone encounters opioids unknowingly or at a higher dose than intended,” said Em Gray of the N.I.C.E Project. “This is long overdue. This need has been under-resourced for a long time, and often, people don’t know how to access Narcan, where to access it or sometimes how to use it. They often only hear of it because of the loss or near-loss of a friend, loved one, or acquaintance.”

Narcan, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is a medicine that can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if theirs has slowed or stopped due to an opioid overdose.

As the opioid crisis continues to ravage many American cities, leaders across the country are taking a different approach to drugs abuse.

In New York City, the first officially authorized safe havens for people to use heroin and other narcotics were cleared to open in the hopes of curbing deadly overdoses.

In their first three months, the sites in upper Manhattan’s East Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods halted more than 150 overdoses during about 9,500 visits — many of them repeat visits from some 800 people in all, according to The Associated Press.

Los Angeles County began offering Narcan to people leaving jail last year, according to Axios. It has since distributed more than 34,000 doses through free vending machines set up at exits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says overdose deaths hit a record high of 107,000 last year. It’s now the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S., with an average of one overdose death every five minutes.

Those facing mental or substance use disorders may call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or find additional resources here.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KXAN contributed to this report.

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