NEW YORK CITY (TND) — A pilot program in New York City will install public health vending machines (PHVM) which will dispense products like naloxone and clean needles in an effort to help those who are "disproportionately burdened" by overdoses.
In December, the Fund for Public Health in New York, a non-profit organization, opened a request for proposals to install 10 PHVMs in select NYC locations. The proposal says the endeavor is expected to have a price tag of $730,000. Taxpayers will foot the bill.
Racial equity does not mean simply treating everyone equally, but rather, allocating resources and services in such a way that explicitly addresses barriers imposed by structural racism (i.e. policies and institutional practices that perpetuate racial inequity) and White privilege (i.e. historical and contemporary advantages in access to resources and opportunities afforded to White people) so that all people have access to what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives," the Fund for Public Health in New York says in its request for proposals.
The machines will dispense "harm reduction and wellness supplies," such as sterile syringes and the anti-overdose drug naloxone, which is commonly branded as Narcan.
According to data from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), over 2,000 people died from accidental overdoses in NYC in 2020. A study from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), combined with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows more than 1 million people have died in America from overdoses since 1999.
Black and Latino residents in neighborhoods with the highest rates of poverty, including South Bronx and East Harlem, reported the most overdose deaths in 2020," NYC DOHMH data says.
South Bronx and East Harlem are two locations the proposal says machines will be installed. Brooklyn and Union Square will also potentially be getting machines.
NYC's health department, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced in November the city would open the first legal heroin injection sites in America, called Overdose Prevention Centers (OPC), also in an effort to fight against fatal overdoses.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in an interview with NPR the OPCs were designed to be operated long-term.
Unfortunately, the overdose crisis is worsening," Chokshi reportedly said. "This is something that we feel deep conviction about and also a sense of urgency to address.
However, some are not in favor of the machines and their installation.
Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin said in a tweet he sees the machines as the government giving drug users access to tools that enables them to use drugs.
It's being reported that NYC’s latest answer to the drug abuse epidemic is to dispense needles from vending machines like candy. That’s on top of new locations around NYC to shoot up. People should be encouraged to get OFF drugs, not having govt load them up w/ tools to use more," Zeldin says on Twitter.
I'd be for these vending machines if they promise to put them in Central Park, Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue — right where the wealthiest people stay," Hawk Newsome, the leader of NYC Black Lives Matter, said in an interview with the New York Post. "Why should our children have to walk past people who are congregating around these machines and nowhere else?
The deadline for the public health vending machines (PHVM) proposals is Jan. 20 and funding for the proposals will be announced Jan. 31.