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Harm Reduction Vending Machine Opens at MHACGs Offices

The area's first vending machine to provide access to harm reduction supplies opened Wednesday, January 31, 2024 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The first free vending machine for Columbia-Greene that dispenses harm reduction supplies is officially open at our MHACG main office building located at 713 Union Street in Hudson following a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The new vending machine dispenses the life saving overdose reversal medication, Naloxone, as well as fentanyl and xylazine test strips.

The vending machine is funded through the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) and is a collaborative effort between MHA of Columbia Greene and our Clubhouse program with Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals (MATTERS) and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany.

Candace Ellis, executive director of Catholic Charities said the vending machine will make access to life saving supplies easier.

"People who use drugs deserve access, they deserve support, and they deserve kindness as we work to negate the risks associated with drug use," she said. "A lot of the drugs that are in the drug supply right now are adulterated with other substances including fentanyl and xylazine. We want to be able to protect our clients and the community."

To access the contents of the machine, individuals will enter the machine code printed on the outside followed by their birth year and zip code. No personal identifying information is collected and the machine is accessible 24/7 outside the 713 Union Street location.

The machine is stocked with Naloxone, Fentanyl test strips, and Xylazine test strips and up to 3 items may be dispensed at a time, completely free of charge.

Shelby Arena, harm reduction coordinator at MATTERS, said the organization has introduced 12 harm-reduction vending machines throughout New York state, and has distributed close to 10 million fentanyl and xylazine test strips, as well as 4,000 doses of Narcan (brand name Naloxone) since 2022.

"It is vital to get these overdose prevention supplies into the hands of our community members," Arena said. "With the rise of morbidity and mortality rates associated with the opioid epidemic, it is important that everyone, not only people who use drugs, are prepared to respond to an overdose."

According to data from the Columbia County Department of Health, 51 people overdosed in the county in 2023, resulting in 37 hospitalizations and 8 deaths.

In Greene County, there were 81 overdoses in 2023, according to data from the Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition's opioid data dashboard.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson said the vending machine would break barriers for people getting life-saving measures.

"We do have the same test strips and naloxone at our police station, but people are less likely to go to the police station to get them," he said. "It's better to have it somewhere in the community where people can come and it's a little more private."

MHA of Columbia Greene is excited to be part of a collaboration that makes access to life saving supplies easier in Columbia and Greene Counties. This service supports our mission for wellbeing and plays a vital role in our Clubhouse program.

Kai Hillmann, MHACG Clubhouse program director, was instrumental in ensuring our programs can be part of this initiative.

"I am excited MHA of Columbia Greene (MHACG) and our Clubhouse program has the opportunity to collaborate with Catholic Charities and MATTERS to provide free 24-hour public access to Narcan, and Fentanyl and Xylazine test strips," he said. "We know that we want to give people the opportunity to utilize these methods to reduce harm and live another day."

"Having these available and knowing how to use them can be just as important as knowing CPR, first aid, or what to do in a fire to save a life of a friend, family member, or even a stranger," Hillmann continues.

The MHACG Clubhouse program is funded by OASAS and provides community drop in space for youth in recovery or at risk of substance use disorders, as well as a young adult peer recovery program with Certified Recovery Peer Advocates (CRPAs) that provide one-on-one peer support and advocacy for those in recovery.

"As a person in recovery from SUD, and as a professional, I've worked alongside countless people that you would describe as "success stories", and, without hesitation or judgement, I stand by the necessity of unlimited access and knowledge of these resources," said Hillmann. "I even carry these supplies myself because I never know who I will encounter that may need them."

To connect with our Clubhouses for recovery peer support, call 518.491.2432.

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