San Diego County plans to install 12 vending machines that will offer free naloxone, the medication commonly known as Narcan, as opioid overdose deaths have risen throughout the region.
Narcan works by blocking opioid receptors from being activated in the nervous system. Once administered, the medication can last for up to 90 minutes before opioids can again reach their receptors.
“Naloxone is a proven life saver in overdose situations. The enhanced distribution of naloxone into the hands of community members is vital in saving lives that might otherwise be lost to overdose,” San Diego County Chief Population Health Officer Nicole Esposito said, according to the Union-Tribune.
The county hopes to install at least half of the vending machines by the end of 2022, with officials still weighing where to place most of the Narcan dispensers, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The free Narcan vending machines are intended as a preventative measure for overdoses rather than an emergency response. They will be available for anyone 18 and older who completes a training course. However, county spokesperson José Álvarez emphasized that people should still contact 911 in the case of an emergency drug overdose.
The county aims to provide 33,000 free Narcan kits by July 2023 and is counting on the vending machines to help with that effort. Users will have to complete a training course before accessing the free Narcan. San Diego County residents can finish the training anonymously and will be given a PIN to enter into machines upon course completion.
Overdose deaths in San Diego County skyrocketed throughout the COVID pandemic. In 2020, the county reported 457 overdose deaths from fentanyl alone, a 202% increase from the year before. Then in 2021, more than 900 people died from opioid-related overdoses in the area, 55% more than reported in 2020.
Narcan has been proven to save the lives of people who overdosed on drugs. Last year in a Los Angeles County jail, two inmates were treated by fellow inmates who rushed in and administered the medication, The Daily Wire previously reported.
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department released jail footage of the incident showing an inmate collapsing next to someone who was already on the floor. Another individual can be seen running down a staircase to get the medicine, then returning to help the inmates in medical distress.