Narcan to be installed in Pierce County vending machines for free

Sep 15, 2022, 1:29 PM
Narcan nasal spray for the treatment of opioid overdoses is made available for free in a vending machine by the DuPage County Health Department at the Kurzawa Community Center on September 01, 2022 in Wheaton, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Pierce County is looking to install three vending machines which will contain Narcan, for free, for those dealing with opioid addiction as part of a $200,000 initiative through Tacoma Needle Exchange.

Narcan is a nasal spray prescription medicine used to treat a known or suspected opioid overdose emergency. Significant breathing problems, severe sleepiness, and the inability to respond are some of the most common signs of an opioid overdose.

Tacoma’s Opioid Response Program has four components: a Narcan distribution program, community training in recognizing an opioid overdose, a Safe Station program, and a Mobile Response Unit. The Safe Station program is run by Tacoma Fire Department and is a walk-in program for those seeking treatment for addiction and associated medical conditions, without fear of arrest. There are currently 81 safe stations for walk-ins.

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Pierce County joins a series of other major metropolitan areas including San Diego, Las Vegas, and New York that are installing vending machines and locker kiosks with Narcan. In Michigan, Wayne State University is installing 15 machines across the state, including on its campus in Detroit.

This news comes after Pierce County was awarded $14 million from a state-negotiated settlement with opioid distributors, according to County Council Chairman Derek Young. The deal was negotiated by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office announced in May that three opioid distributors would pay the state $518 million to resolve a lawsuit filed more than two years earlier.

Officials plan to use the funds to help combat the opioid epidemic at a local level.

Opioids, specifically fentanyl overdoses, are the No. 1 killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45, according to Families Against Fentanyl.

Fentanyl-related deaths peaked in Pierce County in Q3 2021, where 72 deaths were recorded. 2021 tallied a total of 154 deaths, while there have been 80 deaths this year (data only captures Q1 and Q2 2022), including four school-age children, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Fifty-four people died from fentanyl in 2018 and 2019 combined.

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Narcan to be installed in Pierce County vending machines for free