The Saginaw County Health Department (SCHD) has installed a Naloxone vending machine, the first of its kind in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The machine dispenses fentanyl test strips to detect the presence of fentanyl in street drugs, and Naloxone, also known as Narcan, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal tool.
The health department calls it a vital tool to address the opioid crisis and the stigma of substance use. The machine is free to use for anyone, no questions asked and no identification required weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the health department lobby on N. Michigan Ave. in Saginaw.
“Overdose deaths are a growing public health concern,” said Christina Harrington, MPH, SCHD health officer, pointing to the 299% increase in opioid-related deaths in Michigan since 2011. “In 2020, 2,171 Michiganders died by opioid overdose – 55 in Saginaw County alone,” she notes. “Improving access to life-saving supplies by housing this vending machine in our building is an easy yes for us.”
The vending machine and its contents are designed for anyone, including friends, family, and community who know or interact with someone at risk for opioid overdose including those:
• Taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain
• Living with opioid use disorder
• Misusing opioids prescribed for others or using illicit opioids like heroin or fentanyl
The vending machine project is part of an ongoing partnership between SCHD and the CAREring Quick Response Team (made up of the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance, Ten16 Recovery Network, Mobile Medical Response and other partners). Program support for the vending machine was funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is an incredible opportunity to get help and hope into the hands of not just people who use opioids or other substances, but every community member,” said Andrea Foster, chief of staff and director for program development, opioid response with the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance. “Naloxone is vital to battling the opioid crisis and lethal doses of fentanyl are turning up in more and more substances. You never know when you may need to save a life.”
Saginaw now joins Ann Arbor, Jackson and several northern communities offering free Narcan and fentanyl test strips from a vending machine.