NEW YORK -- Instead of snacks, a new vending machine in Brooklyn is stocked with Naloxone and fentanyl test strips.
The potentially lifesaving products are available for free on the corner of Broadway and Decatur Avenue in Ocean Hill, where drug overdoses continue to be a problem.
Health officials said they had to try something different.
"I think they'll be surprised to find that this is a public health vending machine. I think that's a great thing. It will start conversations, hopefully get people talking," said Dr. Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The vending machine at 1676 Broadway is the first of four that will be installed in neighborhoods with New York City's highest overdose rates.
Users simply enter their zip code and select what they need. No charge.
"I think it's a good idea," said Rose Meredith, of Ocean Hill. "This costs money and people right now in this neighborhood cannot afford anything."
In 2021, the city counted a record 2,668 overdose deaths, and statistics in 2022 are expected to be more grim.
Elan Quashie, with the nonprofit Services for the UnderServed, said the products in these vending machines are crucial. His nonprofit is responsible for keeping the vending machines stocked.
"It'll have safe smoking kits, safe sniffing kits, safe injection kits," said Quashie.
"It shouldn't be luck or privilege that gets you into services. It should be easily accessible to everyone we know and love," said Rebecca Linn-Walton, with Services for the UnderServed.
Some people were not receptive to the vending machine in Ocean Hill and said it could attract crime.
"Nobody on this block needs the machine. So you bringing people from outside the community, to lure them over here for this machine. What about our children?" said Keisha DeVaughn.
Advocates said the hope is that people seek long-term care after using the vending machines. When they're ready, they can scan a QR code on the vending machines to connect with a provider.
The vending machines are part of Mayor Eric Adams' plan to reduce overdose deaths by 15 percent by 2025.
Philadelphia and Cincinnati have similar programs.
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