Feb 4, 2022 - News

Narcan dispenser launches in West Philadelphia

A Narcan dispeser
A Narcan dispencer now sits outside the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios

A machine in West Philadelphia is now dispensing free Narcan.

What's happening: The city is piloting a two-year, $90,000 program for a pair of dispensers that give out the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan.

  • One of the machines went live outside the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library on Thursday.

Why it matters: The U.S. saw drug overdose deaths reach six figures for the first time in a 12-month period, ending in April 2021.

  • In Philly, the opioid crisis kills more people annually than homicides, the latter of which reached a historic level last year.

By the numbers: A total of 639 people died of unintentional drug overdoses in Philly during the first half of 2021, the most recent city data available. The city has warned it could be tracking toward an all-time high in a single year.

How it works: The dispenser, known as Narcan Near Me, has 22 lockers that each hold a kit that includes two doses of Narcan and medical gloves, among other things.

  • Access is gained through a touchscreen, which includes an optional demographic survey. The touchscreen can also be used to call police.
  • The city monitors the supply of kits wirelessly to ensure lockers are restocked.

What they're saying: Stigma around opioid use remains a potent barrier that prevents some from getting naloxone in pharmacies and other locations, said José Caraballo, environmental coordinator for the city’s health department, during a news conference on Thursday.

  • "Having something like this where people can actually come up and access it when they feel comfortable is very important for us to fight back," he said.

What's next: The health department is expected to install a second dispenser in South Philadelphia in the coming months, potentially near Health Center 2 around Morris and South Broad streets.

  • The city will soon offer keycards via its health department website that can be used to immediately open a locker to access a kit.
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