City’s first public health vending machine unveiled in Brownsville

public health vending machine
The vending machine is part of the city’s goal of reducing overdose deaths by 15% by 2025.
Photo courtesy of Services for the UnderServed

City health officials unveiled a new style of vending machine in Brownsville Monday — but don’t expect to find any tasty snacks in there.

The machine is loaded with safe-sex kits and toiletries, along with naloxone (a substance that can help treat drug overdoses), which will help tackle the rising number of opioid-related deaths in the Big Apple by making the harm reduction supplies conveniently available.

“We are in the midst of an overdose crisis in our city, which is taking a fellow New Yorker from us every three hours and is a major cause of falling life expectancy in New York City,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan at Monday’s ribbon cutting. “But we will continue to fight to keep our neighbors and loved ones alive with care, compassion and action.

The machine will stock a variety of health and wellness supplies, such as naloxone (Narcan®), hygiene kits, and safer sex kits
The machine will stock a variety of health and wellness supplies, such as naloxone (Narcan®), hygiene kits, and safer sex kits.Photo courtesy of Services for the UnderServed

“Public health vending machines are an innovative way to meet people where they are and to put life-saving tools like naloxone in their hands. We’ll leave no stone unturned until we reverse the trends in opioid-related deaths in our city,” said Vasan.

In 2021, the Five Boroughs saw 2,668 overdose deaths, which marked a significant uptick from the  2,103 deaths in 2020, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which noted that the highly-potent opioid Fentanyl was involved in 80% of all overdose deaths.

Provisional figures for 2022 tally 1,370 confirmed overdose deaths in the first half of the year, and health officials are anticipating for it to be “the deadliest year on record for overdose.”

Officials hope the machine will help to reach New Yorkers who may not already be connected to harm reduction services. Photo courtesy of Services for the Underserved

The public health vending machine rolled out Monday is part of Mayor Eric Adams’ mental health strategy that he announced in March, which promised $22.8 million toward funding initiatives to tackle parts of the city’s ongoing mental health crisis.

Under the plan, the city intends to install at least four public health vending machines that dispense naloxone — an antidote that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. 

Services for the Underserved’s interim President & CEO, Perry Perlmutter, said the machine would be a “game-changer” for that part of East Brooklyn. 

Increasing access to free naloxone is part of the strategy to reduce overdose deaths, with the city focusing on populations with the highest rates of overdose death and risk of experiencing or witnessing an overdose. The additional machines are set to go live some time next year, the locations of which are yet to be announced.

The vending machine is part of the city's goal of reducing overdose deaths by 15% by 2025.
Instructions and contact information for support are posted on the machine in English and Spanish. Photo courtesy of Services for the UnderServed

In the meantime, Services for the Underserved will oversee the operation of the machine located at 1676 Broadway, outside the not-for-profit organization’s supportive housing facility.

The products are available to all for free. To use the machine, individuals enter their New York City ZIP code followed by the numerical code listed below the product.

“With it, we can provide free and easy access to life-saving tools that prevent overdoses, infections, and other health risks associated with substance use. The machine also provides essential items that can improve the quality of life of all New Yorkers, regardless of their income, insurance, or housing status,” said Perry Perlmutter, Interim President & CEO at Services for the UnderServed.

“By installing machines like this one in strategic locations, we are fulfilling our commitment to reducing harm, promoting wellness, and supporting recovery for our most vulnerable communities,” added Perlmutter.