Overdose Prevention Kits Coming to Indiana Jails, Hospitals

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It isn't often that a vending machine can save someone's life, but that's the case in South Bend, where a free overdose kit vending machine is installed at the St. Joseph's County Jail. It's the first step in an initiative that will eventually roll out across the state.

Working with state health officials, Overdose Lifeline plans to place 19 more naloxone vending machines in jails, hospitals and other venues across Indiana. Justin Phillips, the organization's founder and executive director, said the project is aimed at two specific groups, "one being those that are recently incarcerated leaving incarceration; and those visiting health centers, such as an emergency department, following an overdose."

The state has given Overdose Lifeline nearly $73,000 to install the 20 units. Each contains up to 300 free overdose-prevention kits. In addition to a dose of naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, the kits include instructions for use and a treatment referral for substance-use disorder. Hoosiers also can request a free naloxone overdose kit from Overdose Lifeline on its website.

Phillips said being able to anonymously obtain the kits is a key part of the vending machine initiative. She explained that the internalized stigma among people who use drugs and the hesitancy to ask someone directly for help often are hurdles in getting overdose kits distributed.

"This is not about enabling anything other than someone to have health and wellness and life," she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated drug overdose deaths in Indiana. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state saw a roughly 32% increase in overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021, surpassing the national average of just over 28%. That includes overdoses from opioids, as well as other drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Jonah Chester,

Wednesday, December 15, 2021