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HealthWest says Narcan vending machines are "definitely making an impact" to combat overdoses

Narcan vending machine at HealthWest
HealthWest says Narcan vending machines are "definitely making an impact" to combat overdoses

The behavioral health center in Muskegon debut the Narcan vending machines in its facilities last December.

Specialists at HealthWest say the Narcan vending machines it debuted last December are already proving to have an impact on the community.

"We limit it to two doses per consumer per week. I've had to re-fill the machine twice and there's 150 in there, so it's definitely making an impact and is extremely useful," certified peer recovery coach and health specialist, Jessica Blanchard with HealthWest said.

Muskegon County saw 50 recorded deaths as a result of opioid overdoses in 2020, yet only 7% of individuals had access to Narcan at the time of their death. Blanchard said this is a life and death difference that’s happening across the state.

“The University of Michigan there’s 2,309 suspected fatal overdoses, so those are 2,309 people that if they had Narcan could still be here today," she explained.

In hopes to change the outcomes, HealthWest, a behavioral wellness connection in Muskegon, brought in free and accessible Narcan vending machines in December. Narcan, otherwise known as Naloxone, can be used to treat emergency narcotic overdoses, something Blanchard says she’s experienced first hand.

“The hardest part of recovery is getting clean and staying clean. Narcan saved my life multiple times," she shared.

However, she says the move brought a mixed response from the community.

“A lot of people know there’s a lot of stigma that comes with opioid use but don’t have a lot of knowledge about the cause of it," Blanchard explained. "Nalaxone can save not only the lives of people using heroin and other opioids recreationally but even individuals who are on prescription medications who might overtake those medications."

According to the U.S. Department of health and human services, an estimated 40% of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.

Regardless of the controversy, Blanchard said the machine is getting used. She said while it may not always be by those struggle with substance abuse disorder themselves, she hopes it gets in the hands of those most vulnerable.

"Maybe the mother who is watching their child suffre from opioid addiction and can save their lives. Having it accessible for everyone is important, and being able to provide it to the community is a great thing for us," she said.

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