NEW YORK (NewsNation) — On the corner of Decatur Street and Broadway in Brooklyn stands what looks like a typical vending machine, but up close, it’s stocked with medical items intended to help prevent overdoses instead of chips and cookies.
New York City officials unveiled Monday its first public health vending machine designed to reduce the city’s record-high drug overdose rate. However, residents who live in the neighborhood call it a dangerous experiment.
The free-of-charge, round-the-clock distribution machine includes drug testing strips, condoms, drug-smoking pipes and Narcan to reverse the effects of overdosing. The most controversial item inside is the “safer-smoking kit” which comes with a pipe, mouthpiece and lip balm for smoking illegal substances.
“Every kit comes with two doses, four milligrams each safe medication used to reverse opioid overdose,” said.
Residents have to type in their ZIP code and enter the item number to receive items from the machine.
There are about a dozen different items to choose from when the machine is fully stocked. The $11,000 machine is the first of four the city is installing as part of a pilot program to help save lives in neighborhoods with high rates of overdoses.
In 2021, 2,668 people died from drug overdose compared to 2,103 in 2020, according to NYC data. About 80% of the fatal overdoses involved drugs laced with fentanyl.
Data for 2022 is still being compiled, but the New York State Department of Health said there were 1,370 fatal drug overdoses reported, in the first six months of 2022.
“We need to empower people, communities, our neighbors with everything and anything that they need on demand to save a life,” said New York City’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Ashwin Vasan.
However, the machine is an eyesore and a source of worry for people living near the machine. Their primary concern is that the machine will draw more users to the community, putting their safety at risk.
The machine sits outside a nonprofit organization where drug and rehab counselors operate an opioid overdose prevention program that provides healthcare and housing for underserved people battling addiction.
:56 –“We don’t need this on our block,” said Keisha Devaughn, a Brooklyn resident. “The only people that need it in this community are the people in this building. They should put it in the lobby.”
New York City officials have no plans of removing the machines, convinced they provide wellness and life-saving support for people fighting the disease of addiction.
“It’s nice. It’s good because it’s free.”
New York City isn’t the first in the U.S. to have a public health vending machine; Philadelphia and Nevada have also installed them.
NewsNation affiliate WPIX contributed to this report.