January 23, 2024
Milwaukee County Recruiting Businesses and Organizations to Host Additional ‘Harm Reduction Vending Machines’ to Combat Death from Overdose
VISIT Milwaukee encourages hospitality businesses to consider hosting a machine
MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, Chief Health Policy Advisor Dr. Ben Weston, VISIT Milwaukee President & CEO Peggy Williams-Smith, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Behavioral Health Services (BHS) team are encouraging businesses and organizations to apply to host one of eight new Harm Reduction Vending Machines in Milwaukee County. Last year, 11 machines were placed at locations in four different municipalities to reduce injury and death from overdose. Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services and community leaders encourage a wide range of businesses and organizations to apply to host machines in this next phase, including restaurants, gas stations, hotels, grocery stores, and large public meeting places. Factors taken into consideration to host a machine include strong community ties, community engagement, and the desire to be a resource for the community.
Milwaukee County DHHS BHS is now accepting applications to host the machines HERE. Applications will be accepted until March 1, 2024. Businesses and organizations selected to host the machines will be announced in May 2024. The machines will be placed within six weeks following the selection announcement.
“The impacts of addiction and overdose cross all socio-economic, geographic, and demographic ranges. There is not one ‘type’ of person affected by opioid addiction,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “The opioid settlement allows us to fund projects such as the Harm Reduction Vending Machines to help save lives and mitigate suffering for our residents and their loved ones. We’ve seen success with the initial Harm Reduction Vending Machines placed in 2023 by empowering organizations with the tools to save lives. I encourage all types of businesses and organizations to consider applying to host a machine. Together we will make Milwaukee County the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”
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 2023, there were 568 confirmed overdose deaths in Milwaukee County, with 98 cases pending further toxicology. To date for 2023, 480 are confirmed opioid deaths, with more pending.
“While upstream approaches such as housing, employment, and access to care are critical to a future that is healthier, productive, and thriving—they do not by themselves recognize the challenges we face today, in this moment. That is where downstream approaches such as the harm reduction vending machines become critical to saving lives. It gives us time to intervene and provide an opportunity to connect individuals with the help they need. Bottom line… harm reduction saves lives,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor.
In this next round of recruitment, the county is seeking to place eight more Harm Reduction Vending Machines in easily accessible locations. The 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. Vivent Health’s Lifepoint program and HRI Vending are Harm Reduction Vending Machine project partners.
“We are looking to further diversify the types of businesses hosting the machines, to include high traffic locations,” said Jeremy Triblett, Prevention Integration Manager, DHHS Behavioral Health Services. “The machines we placed throughout the community in 2023 are in high need locations. Moving forward, we want to expand to new locations to ensure harm reduction supplies are accessible for everyone across Milwaukee County.
“I’m proud to support the County Executive and his team on the work they’re doing to mitigate the opioid crisis with this creative harm reduction strategy,” said Peggy Williams-Smith, President and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee. “Addiction and overdose can affect anyone, regardless of geography, socio-economic status, age, race, gender – I happen to know this firsthand. Thankfully, businesses – like the hospitality businesses we advocate for – can be part of the solution thanks to the County and these vending machines. So, if you own a business in a high-traffic area and you want to make a positive impact on the community, I encourage you to reach out as soon as you can. We all have a part to play in keeping our city and county safe.”
A list of all Harm Reduction Vending Machine locations is available HERE.