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Controlled dispensing for harm reduction

Controlled dispensing for harm reduction

Harm reduction is a strategy that has proven extremely effective in helping to deal with various public health crises around the world. Here in North America, at an increasing number of sites across the United States and Canada, vending machines are being deployed to dispense essential supplies for the purpose of harm reduction. What exactly does harm reduction entail?

In the broader sense, harm reduction refers to a range of methods and strategies put in place to minimize the harm caused by various human behaviors, particularly recreational drug use and risky sexual activity. Vending machines are extremely effective in furthering the aims of harm reduction. Machines placed in strategic sites in numerous cities can help with the dispensing of clean needles and sterile swabs for drug users, condoms and other prophylactic devices to promote safe sex, and medications such as naloxone for the prevention of opioid deaths.

Supplies are made freely available to the public, or to persons living or working inside a particular site. Although it is, of course, essential for people to be able to access the supplies freely, abuse or overuse of the system must also be prevented. For this purpose, vending machines can be equipped with systems that control dispensing with daily limits on supplies and various methodologies for authentication as well as allow agencies to comply with individual State and Federal regulations.

What cities across North America are doing to combat the opioid crisis

One area in which vending machines are being effectively used for harm reduction is in combating the opioid crisis. Cities across North America are installing vending machines at key sites to enable the distribution of naloxone kits. Naloxone is a medication that combats the effects of opioid misuse. Naloxone quickly stops and reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors.

Opioid abuse is widespread, and around 100,000 overdoses were recorded in the US between April 2020 and April 2021. By allowing access to naloxone, authorities can potentially prevent thousands of deaths. Some installations also include needle-exchange programs, allowing people to drop off their used needles in safe sharps receptacles, and take new, sterile needles from the vending machines. This helps to reduce the spreading of diseases, which often results from the use of contaminated needles. A common result of contaminated needle use is Hepatitis C. The treatment of one case of this disease can cost as much as $100,000, so preventing its spread not only keeps people from getting sick, it also helps to reduce the costs of public health.

Harm reduction vending machines have been rolled out in Los Angeles, New York City elsewhere in New York State, as well as various sites around Kentucky, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Ohio. The project is likely to gain traction in other cities around the country too.

Controlling and tracking the inventory of needles and other harm reduction supplies

The authorities that operate public harm vending machines need to be able to keep track of their supplies, with up-to-minute inventory reporting. In some cases they need to provide education on the product before it can be dispensed which can be achieved by adding a touchscreen to the dispensing device. VendNovation provides a comprehensive control solution that enables monitoring of access and inventory remotely. Physical machine inspections are not required. Operators can check their inventory levels and control access to their supplies via our cloud-based platform. It provides instant access to real-time, enterprise-wide inventory management. Operators can then drive their businesses with automated pick lists, driver routes, replenishment reports, and up-to-the-minute inventory tracking.

How we help manage medications used by EMS providers

The vending systems used by city authorities for harm reduction are similar to those used in hospitals and other medical facilities for EMS distribution. Through our cloud-based system, VendNovation offers EMS providers complete chain-of-custody and lot number tracking to meet DEA regulations on narcotic storage control, meaning they can keep an eye on their inventory at all times. The system generates detailed reports that help operators to understand the needs of their users. Real-time audit and transaction logs help to maintain inventory levels and schedule resupply visits, and online inventory alerts let operators know when stock levels are getting too low.

Benefits of using our system

VendNovation’s vending system offers the following key benefits to operators of harm reduction vending machines:

  • Ease of access: The public has easy access to the lifesaving supplies they need, yet the system still makes provision for strict access and monitoring.

  • Multiple locations: You can deploy vending machines in as many locations as you like. The cloud-based system will enable you to monitor and manage all of them remotely.

  • 24/7 availability: Members of the public can access your vending machines at any time, ensuring that emergencies can be addressed or avoided.

  • Restriction functionality: You can program your machines to limit dispenses per day/week/month etc.

  • Maintain compliance with State and Federal regulations: Add a kiosk or touchscreen for providing instructional videos, survey or further information that is needed to meet your individual state requirements

If you are setting up a harm reduction project in your local area, contact VendNovation for an effective inventory management solution that will make dispensing for harm reduction an easy and cost-effective task. Contact us for more information.

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