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First Narcan vending machine in state, outside of New York City, installed in Saranac Lake

Saranac Lake welcome sign
Pat Bradley
Saranac Lake welcome sign

The first vending machine outside of New York City that dispenses Narcan — used to reverse overdoses — has been installed in Saranac Lake.

New York Matters, based in Buffalo, plans to install 15 harm reduction vending machines across upstate and northern New York. The first was set up on October 10th in the lobby of the Saranac Lake Police Department. The machine dispenses, at no cost, Narcan and fentanyl and xylazine test strips.

Saranac Lake Police Chief Darin Perrotte says the materials are available at any time, no questions asked.

“Somebody could come in, get whatever they want. They don’t even have to speak to anyone. You can go for it. Use it. Do whatever you need to do and you don’t have to talk to anyone or answer any questions. The lobby we have some resources and stuff out there, some pamphlets, some brochures that folks can take about fentanyl and about some resources that are out there and available to them.”

Perrotte has noticed some hesitation to come into the lobby and use the machine, which he attributes to addiction stigma.

“The reality is that your hardened drug addicts and whatnot are not going to be the only folks coming in to access this. Family members, loved ones that want to have this on hand because they know they have someone that is suffering from substance abuse disorder. It’s a harm reduction resource to have out there.”

Three items can be obtained from the machine, Chief Perrotte notes, by inputting a code posted on the machine.

“It doesn’t mean that you can’t get more if you wanted. You would just have to enter the code again. But it gives you three options. So much like any vending machine that you get cany or soda out of there are itemized numbered so if you wanted Narcan you know you might press one. And then for your second item you want a fentanyl test strip you’ll press you know two or three. And then the same for the third item. It dispenses your items and you’re on your way.”

The police department is partnering with the Alliance for Positive Health, which will stock and maintain the machine. Assistant Director of Program Services Vanessa Cappon says informational material is dispensed with the Narcan about how to properly use it.

“We can also offer the trainings over the phone to individuals if they call and ask questions of ‘hey I just want to understand how to use this. We’ll go over it on the phone with them. We’ll go out to them if they want to meet in person. We’ll go out and show them how to use Narcan properly. But we want to make sure that it is accessible. That is so incredibly important. And we don’t want it sitting in a closet at our office waiting for someone to come to us. We want to get it out into the community.”

Perrotte adds:

“And as officers we’re always available to train folks if they have questions about it. We do have some training devices in there. In a matter of minutes we can instruct people on how to properly administer Narcan. And I think the important thing to note too is that Narcan won’t harm you and it really is going to have no effect on you if you are not under the influence of opioids.”

While Cappon would like to see the harm reduction vending machines across the state, she also wants to make sure people get addiction treatment.

“I want to also make sure that vending machines don’t become the new human. We want to make sure that the materials are accessible. But what’s going to be more important is a staff member having conversations with the individual to provide those more wrap-around services to them rather than just here’s your Narcan, see you later.”

In New York City, the first machine was installed in early June outside of a supportive housing facility. In addition to naloxone, it also supplies hygiene and safer-sex kits.