August 7, 2023
Milwaukee County Announces Locations of 11 ‘Harm Reduction Vending Machines’ to Combat Death from Overdose
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, Chief Health Policy Advisor Dr. Ben Weston, Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Executive Director Shakita LaGrant-McClain, and Behavioral Health Services (BHS) are announcing the placement of 11 Harm Reduction Vending Machines to reduce injury and death from overdose, at locations across the county, informed by data and need. The machines provide free access to harm reduction and prevention supplies, including fentanyl test strips, nasal naloxone, medication deactivation pouches, medication lock bags, and gun locks. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), harm reduction is an evidence-based practice to prevent death for people who use drugs. In 2022, there were 667 drug overdose deaths in Milwaukee County.
“The opioid epidemic reaches communities in all parts of the county. It crosses all socio-economic, demographic and age ranges – there is no “type” of person who succumbs to opioid addiction. Last year’s opioid settlement allow us to get to work right away funding projects that will help save lives and mitigate continued suffering for residents and their loved ones,” said County Executive David Crowley. “Milwaukee County has been on the frontlines of this battle for years in the court system, and now we take the next step in bringing desperately needed resources to the doorstep of the communities that need them the most. By following the data and investing in the communities with the highest need, I am optimistic we will make our streets safer and help residents begin or continue their road to recovery.”
ll The Harm Reduction Vending Machines will be placed at the locations listed below. An application process was launched in April for any interested entities within Milwaukee County’s 19 municipalities. These initial 11 locations were selected based on the quality of their application, on site interviews, a review of data identifying areas with the greatest need, and an assessment of foot traffic and accessibility. The project wibe studied well so that it can be expanded by an additional 14 Harm Reduction Vending Machines throughout Milwaukee County in 2024. Vivent Health’s Lifepoint program and HRI Vending are Harm Reduction Vending Machine project partners.
“The vending machines, placed in key locations across the county will reduce barriers to these essential, lifesaving tools,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor. “By making fentanyl test strips, naloxone nasal spray, and other critical harm reduction supplies free and available without stigma, we can drive down the injury and harm from opioid overdoses in our community.”
Notably, there is a vending machine located at Milwaukee County’s Community Reintegration Center. The intent is to make harm reduction supplies readily available for those being released from custody and visitors. This site was chosen because of the amount of foot traffic and to prevent overdose in individuals who may use drugs upon their release. Originally, a machine was located at the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services building. That machine has been relocated to the MLK Jr. Community Center, 1531 W. Vliet because that location sees a greater amount of foot traffic.
“At DHHS, our goal is to create easy access to services and resources across Milwaukee County through our No Wrong Door philosophy. The Harm Reduction Vending Machines provide lifesaving supplies at no cost in areas with the greatest need,” said Shakita LaGrant-McClain, Executive Director, Department of Health & Human Services. “We are hopeful this evidence-based strategy of harm reduction will change the narrative and prevent death from overdose.”
In its first meeting of 2023, the County Board approved allocating $11 million in opioid settlement funds to support 15 projects over the next three fiscal years – including harm reduction supplies, education and treatment for justice involved youth, and opioid prevention projects. Milwaukee County has among the highest rates of overdose deaths in Wisconsin, and in the last two years the county has seen record numbers of emergency calls related to overdoses.
Here is a link to a map showing all of the Harm Reduction Vending Machine locations.