A Narcan vending machine will soon be installed at the Ingham County jail.
The opioid overdose-fighting drug will be available for anyone in need, and the process will be identical to getting a snack from a normal vending machine.
During an overdose, breathing can be dangerously slowed or even stopped, causing brain damage or death. Naloxone, also known under the brand name Narcan, is an antidote that reduces or reverses the effects of opioid overdose.
The Ingham County Board of Commissioners’ Law and Courts Committee met Feb. 2 to discuss the challenges and benefits of installing a vending machine that distributes Narcan inside the new jail.
Since 2000, opioid overdose deaths have increased 10-fold across the state of Michigan, according to state statistics.
To fight overdoses, the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University partnered with Shaffer Distributing, based in Livonia, Michigan, to distribute the vending machines.
Wayne State University has placed more than 15 of these machines in county jails, including Jackson, Monroe and Oakland counties.
Law and Courts Committee members expressed concerns and questions about the machines. Details were relayed to them by Sgt. Bob Boerkoel of the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department.
“It is one of those things that is an ongoing issue and it has its flows, depending on what is circulating out there,” Boerkoel said. He explained that the vending machines, although placed at the jail, are “intended for the community and the public as a whole.”
Ingham County jail will be one of the next counties to receive one of these naloxone dispensers.
County jails are key locations for these vending machines, not because they are to be monitored or watched by law enforcement, but because they are a vital part of helping recently released people struggling with drug dependency, according to Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth.
“We know when people come into the jail, they may be here for two weeks, they may be here for two months,” said Wriggelsworth. “Often, people will leave here, they’ll go back to using again and they’ll use at the same level they’re used to. Well, their body can’t sustain that anymore and that is when the tragedy happens.”
Placing the vending machine inside the jail lobby allows people that are on the cusp of using again, or unsure of their future use, to have easy access to the medication.
The vending machines hold 150 boxes of naloxone, and each box will have two doses. Evaluation will be done during the first few weeks of deployment of the machines to determine how often they will need to be refilled. If needed the machines will be restocked regularly.
The vending machines will be placed inside the new Ingham County jail weather vestibule, an area where the doors do not lock and will be open 24 hours a day.
The jail has been strategically handing out Narcan to high-risk individuals on a case-by-case basis for several years, but this is the first instance of Narcan being available without human interaction. Using the vending machine will allow the jail to handle overdose-related issues outside its walls.
The committee’s plan is for the vending machine to be placed before the end of 2023.