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Kansas to become latest state to get free naloxone vending machines

Art of what the naloxone vending machines in Kansas will look like.
Art of what the naloxone vending machines in Kansas will look like.

Vending machines have become one of the latest tools in the fight against the opioid crisis.

Free naloxone vending machines will be placed in several counties across Kansas by the end of the year.

The machines will be in Douglas, Johnson and Wyandotte counties in northeast Kansas. They’ll also be placed in Crawford County in the southeast part of the state, and Reno and Sedgwick counties in south-central Kansas.

“Our goal is really to eliminate as many barriers as possible to getting naloxone in the hands of people,” said Chrissy Mayer with DCCCA, a nonprofit that helps distribute naloxone. “So this is just … one more way to equip people with a lifesaving drug essentially.”

Vending machines have become one of the latest tools in the fight against the opioid crisis.

Residents can access the naloxone by simply putting in their ZIP codes. Fentanyl test strips will also be available for free in the machines.

“What we're hearing is if people go to purchase [naloxone] over the counter, they're paying anywhere from $40 to $50 for a kit, which makes it very difficult to purchase if you're choosing between gas for the week or Naloxone,” Mayer said.

“It's a tough choice.”

The machines are part of DCCCA’s statewide naloxone access program. The agency also mails naloxone kits and fentanyl test strips to any Kansas resident for free.

Mayer said some of the counties were chosen because they were the biggest utilizers of the naloxone program.

From there, the agency said it would rely on data and its local partners on where the vending machine should be placed outdoors. The locations have yet to be announced, but Mayer said the machines will be outside for 24-hour access.

“We really are trying to focus on areas of high need and where our local partners think it will be most utilized best,” Mayer said.

Funding for the vending machines comes from several different means, including a donation from the Healthy Blue initiative and state and local opioid settlement funds.

A vending machine in Wyandotte County, which has seen a steep increase in overdose deaths since 2018 like several other parts of the state, was recently awarded funding through the state opioid settlement grants.

“This is something that can immediately save a life,” said Pat George, the chair of the board allocating money from the state’s opioid settlement funds.

Discussion for the vending machine has been ongoing with Douglas County’s local government and will be funded with its share of opioid settlement grants, The Lawrence Times reports.

Healthy Blue, an initiative from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, will fund the rest of the machines through DCCCA and help continue supplying the machines with naloxone.

“With the funding from Healthy Blue, it really was just to determine, are the machines being utilized? Are people receptive to them? Does that help reduce things like stigma? Does it normalize Naloxone usage?” Mayer said. “We're really just waiting to see, kind of, how it's received in Kansas.”

Once the machines are placed, residents can find their locations at dccca.org/naloxone-program.

Copyright 2023 KMUW | NPR for Wichita. To see more, visit KMUW | NPR for Wichita.

Kylie Cameron, a Kansas native, is a News Lab intern at KMUW. A political science and journalism major, she also serves as the editor in chief for The Sunflower, Wichita State’s student newspaper.