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NYC’s first public health vending machine
Photograph: courtesy of NYC Department of Health

New York City just got its first ‘public health’ vending machine

It’s less snacks and more life-saving.

Written by
Christina Izzo

You won't find Cheetos in the new vending machine rolled out by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene this month—instead, it's stocked with lifesaving items like Naloxone and fentanyl test strips.

The city’s first “public health vending machine” was unveiled on Monday, June 5, at 1676 Broadway and Decatur Avenue in Brooklyn’s Ocean Hill neighborhood. The automat vends a variety of health and wellness supplies such as hygiene products and toiletries, safer sex kits, and harm reduction items including safety kits for smoking, sniffing and injection, as well as Naloxone (such as Narcan), a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.

Users will not have to pay for any of the items in the machine; they’ll simply just enter their New York City ZIP code followed by the numerical code listed below the product. (Instructions and contact information for support will be available in both English and Spanish.) 

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The vending machine will be hosted and maintained by Services for the Underserved (S:US), a non-profit organization working to drive "scalable solutions to transform the lives of people with disabilities, people in poverty, and people facing homelessness," which runs a supportive housing facility right near the Ocean Hill new machine. It will "promote 24/7 access to lifesaving harm reduction supplies conveniently and anonymously to meet a goal outlined in the mental health plan," per a press release from the Department of Health.  

“We are in the midst of an overdose crisis in our city, which is taking a fellow New Yorker from us every three hours and is a major cause of falling life expectancy in NYC,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “But we will continue to fight to keep our neighbors and loved ones alive with care, compassion and action. Public health vending machines are an innovative way to meet people where they are and to put life-saving tools like naloxone in their hands. We’ll leave no stone unturned until we reverse the trends in opioid-related deaths in our city.”

NYC’s first public health vending machine. It’s blue and is standing outside a building.
Photograph: courtesy of Services for the UnderServed

According to the Department of Health, overdose deaths in New York City have reached record highs with 2,668 overdose-related deaths in the city in 2021, as compared to 2,103 the year prior. Eighty-four percent of those overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid, one of the most popularly used and highly potent of which is fentanyl, said to be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 

"This public health vending machine will be a game-changer for this part of East Brooklyn. With it, we can provide free and easy access to life-saving tools that prevent overdoses, infections, and other health risks associated with substance use. The machine also provides essential items that can improve the quality of life of all New Yorkers, regardless of their income, insurance, or housing status,” said Perry Perlmutter, Interim President & CEO at Services for the UnderServed. “By installing machines like this one in strategic locations, we are fulfilling our commitment to reducing harm, promoting wellness, and supporting recovery for our most vulnerable communities."

Additional machines will roll out throughout NYC in the next year, part of the aforementioned Care, Community, Action mental health plan that was released in March, in which the city committed to reducing overdose deaths by 15% by 2025.

Items from inside NYC’s first public health vending machine
Photograph: courtesy of Services for the UnderServered

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