Addiction & Overdose

New Toolkit Assesses Community Readiness for a Harm Reduction Vending Machine

November 17, 2022

The United States’ overdose epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic have created a tremendous need for comprehensive harm reduction solutions that offer flexibility in access to services and increase provider capacity to deliver the right services to the right people at the right time. One innovative solution is the use of harm reduction vending machines that dispense supplies for safer drug use and overdose and infectious disease prevention.  These machines, which are being used in cities such as, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, can increase the reach of harm reduction programs by locating them in highly impacted communities with fewer existing harm reduction service providers and can provide contactless service to address rising overdose and infectious disease rates in the age of COVID-19.  

When considering a strategy like harm reduction vending machines it is critical to understand community context and to get buy-in from staff, key community stakeholders, partners, and program participants. To help with this, Bloomberg American Health Initiative fellows Callie Kaplan, Zach Kosinski, Nicole Barnes and Erin Russell, under the guidance of Dr. Susan Sherman, created a readiness toolkit to support agencies, community-based organizations, and advocacy groups to make informed decisions about the use of harm reduction vending machines in their communities.  

The team received funding from the Initiative to develop the toolkit in the fall of 2020. The team completed 20 interviews with community informants, including people who use drugs, in Baltimore and Chicago. The information collected was used to inform the assessment tool which will help agencies understand where their community sits on the continuum of readiness for vending machine implementation and identify next steps to strengthen their capacity to initiate a harm reduction vending machine program.  

The toolkit is available for download here: Readiness Assessment for Harm Reduction Vending Machines

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