Tacoma Library installs Narcan vending machine

Feb 3, 2023, 9:32 AM
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)

The Tacoma Needle Exchange and the Dave Purchase Project are setting up three vending machines with free naloxone, known as NARCAN, in the Tacoma Moore Library this February.

“The pandemic increased overdose deaths significantly, and public services like the library see patrons struggling with addiction every day,” the library said in their announcement.

Narcan to be installed in Pierce County vending machines for free

Naloxone can be given as a nasal spray or injected into the muscle, under the skin, or into the veins, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website said.

Naloxone has no effect on someone who doesn’t have opioids in their system and is not a treatment for opioid use disorder. It is used to reverse an overdose. Naloxone cannot be used recreationally, as it has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Doses of naloxone have been available to Tacoma Public Library staff to respond to overdoses happening in libraries since 2018, and staff is trained to recognize the signs of an overdose and administer naloxone. Their supply is provided by the Tacoma Needle Exchange.

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.

“Naloxone is a harm reduction tool that can reverse an opioid overdose,” said Library Director Kate Larsen told KIRO 7. “With this opportunity to expand our community’s access to this lifesaving (yet safe) opioid reversal medication, we hope to reduce opioid overdose deaths in our community.”

The Tacoma Needle Exchange will also provide no-cost peer counseling services to patrons for two-to-four hours per month at the Moore and South Tacoma libraries for the rest of 2023.

Community members can also acquire free naloxone at any Washington state pharmacy, the Tacoma Needle Exchange, and at other naloxone vending machines in Pierce County.

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.

KIRO 7 contributed to this report

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Tacoma Library installs Narcan vending machine