OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The Oklahoma Department of Heath says opioid overdose deaths jumped more than 600% since the pandemic started. Now, officials are hoping education can help.
Experts say one of the biggest problems in fighting the opioid crisis is awareness, and they hope machines like this will help save lives.
Each year nearly 1,000 Oklahomans die from accidental opioid overdoses. According to the CDC, 40% of those happen around someone who could have intervened and saved their life.
“We know that there are many, many lives that are being saved around the U.S. every single day by people who have easy access to Narcan and are able to stop the and reverse the effects of an overdose,” Mark Woodward with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics said.
That’s where these vending machines come in. They’re stocked with doses of Narcan which can reverse an overdose, and fentanyl testing strips.
More than 40 of them will be placed around the state, including 7 of the state’s busiest travel centers.
“We have so many people, including young people unknowingly ingesting drugs that they do not know have fentanyl in them and they are dying at an unacceptable rate,” Woodward said.
However, the vending machines aren’t the only thing being done to combat the problem. Attorney general Gentner Drummond announced today that $23million in grants will be given out across the state to help fund treatment and recovery programs.
Local police departments and schools, like the Francis Tuttle Technology Center have started similar programs in the past year.
“I think that the training we’re doing for Narcan right now is incredibly important and should be taught not just in our system and our education,” Sara Garcia, Francis Tuttle student said. “I think it’s important that everyone learns how to have this certain safety as we go into a new generation.”
New vending machines will eventually be added to some police departments, college campuses, and even public libraries.