Can a vending machine help save lives? The Chicago Department of Public Health thinks so.
In a city pilot program launching at the start of October, five vending machines will be installed in the West, South, North and Central parts of the city to distribute free health products. They will be located on sites with high numbers of overdoses, based on geospatial analysis of overdose prevalence areas in the city, a CPDH official told harm- reduction advocates last week. One of the machines will be located at the lobby of the East Garfield Park office of the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services.
The vending machines will distribute overdose prevention items such as fentanyl and xylazine test kits. Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, will also be available for free. Each machine will be stocked with 72 Narcan kits.
The city’s health agency will be responsible for operating the public health vending machines and keeping them stocked. Initially, all vending machines will have the same items, but that may change to adjust for local demand.
Period products, which are not always easily accessible, will be available for free, including tampons and pads.
To access most items, one must complete a survey to get a unique PIN code. The code will allow them to use the vending machines at no cost. Initially, there will be no limit on how many items an individual can get.
The PIN codes will permit the city to track individual users who could potentially dispense all items from the machine. If that is the case, their PIN code could be restricted to a limited number of uses, although agency officials are hopeful it won’t happen based on similar projects in other cities.
To get Narcan, however, users do not need a unique PIN code. Each machine will have a readily available code –1234– to dispense Narcan without need of completing the survey.
Hygiene kits and underwear and socks kits will also be available. Hygiene kits include toothpaste, a toothbrush, a soap bar, condoms, deodorant and lubricant.
To show users how the vending machines operate, the city agency will work with partner organizations where they will be located. A city dashboard with data about the vending machines’ use is expected to be available in the future.
Health vending machines will be installed at these locations:
1. Uptown Library (front lobby/entryway)
2. DFSS Community Service Center (lobby)
3. Harold Washington Library (3rd floor)
4. Red Line 95th St. CTA Station (North Terminal)
5. Roseland Community Triage Center (entryway)