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Community uses more than 2,300 products from DC's new vending machines with NARCAN, fentanyl test strips

DC Health started installing seven harm reduction vending machines in April to give people access to necessary supplies 24/7.

WASHINGTON — September marks National Recovery Month, so WUSA9 is checking in on how the D.C. community is using the harm reduction vending machines the District installed earlier this year. 

The latest CDC data from 2021 shows that both Maryland and Virginia are in the top 15 states with the highest number of overdose deaths. D.C. Health reports 192 opioid fatalities so far this year, with 99% of them involving fentanyl.

Advocates said access to life-saving supplies like NARCAN as well as treatment are key to saving lives.

That's where the vending machines come in.

D.C. started installing seven of them throughout the city in April, focusing on areas with high concentrations of opioid abuse.

“It's not one thing that's going to change the trajectory of the opioid epidemic, but it's the combination of things that will do that," Angela Fulwood Wood, the COO of Family and Medical Counseling Service, Inc, said. 

Her group currently runs four of these vending machines and are working to get another one up and running.

She said right now, the machines dispense NARCAN, fentanyl test strips, wound care kits, male and female condoms, some basic first aid, hygiene kits, and rapid COVID test kits.

"The key thing is to kind of watch how people utilize and then look at whether or not things need to shift... to get the products out in the community where they are needed," Wood said.

Here are where the seven vending machines are installed and how many products have been dispensed from each one so far:

  • Engine #2: 500 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (28 products dispensed)
  • Engine#7: 1101 Half St. SW, Washington, DC 20024 (200 products dispensed)
  • Engine#27: 4260 Minnesota Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20019 (212 products)
  • Engine#33: 101 Atlantic St. SE, Washington, DC 20032 (855 products dispensed at this location)
  • Bread for the City, 1525 7th St NW (0 products dispensed)- New location
  • Whitman Walker Health, Max Robinson Center, 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE (3 products dispensed)
  • HIPS, 906 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002 (1024 products dispensed) - Outside of HIPS building but served as a temporary location until the machine was recently installed at the Bread for the City location on Good Hope Rd, SE

The machines on Atlantic Street SE and the one at the HIPS building in NE saw the most usage, but as mentioned above the HIPS one was recently moved to Bread for the City in SE.

In total, DC Health reports 2,387 products dispensed since May.

Wood said NARCAN and fentanyl test strips have been the most popular.

“It's the low barrier access that we think is the key to the harm reduction vending machine," Wood said. "I don't have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops to gain access, you know, I can just go to the machine privately and anonymously and dispense what I would like."

It's becoming an indispensable tool in the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis.

To use the machine, Wood said you dial the phone number that's listed on the machine. The main menu will ask if you're trying to access the vending machine, and then it’ll give you a code to plug in.

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