HELENA — Three new naloxone vending machines are now in operation in Helena, with the goal of offering free opioid overdose medication available to anyone who needs it.
Thanks to collaboration by the Helena Police Department, Helena Municipal Court, and Lewis and Clark County’s Department of Criminal Justice Services, a vending machine has been set up on the first floor of the Law and Justice Center. A second vending machine is in the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ reception area, and a third vending machine has been placed at Good Samaritan’s Our Place Drop-In Center.
“Our primary goal is to eliminate opioid use in our community,” says Helena Police Chief Brett Petty. “The unfortunate reality is, many of us have neighbors, family, or friends that are struggling with opioid addiction. My hope is that these machines will be a resource for people who are trying to avoid losing their loved ones to addiction.”
The placement of the vending machines is part of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s efforts to address opioid misuse disorders. Chief Petty and Helena Municipal Court Judge Anne Peterson are both active members on the Council.
Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. This reversal means normal breathing can be quickly restored. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say administering naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, can restore a person’s breathing within two to three minutes.
Because law enforcement is often the first to arrive to the scene of an overdose, many law enforcement agencies across the United States, including HPD and the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, equip their officers with the life-saving drug.
“We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent overdose deaths in our community,” says Kellie McBride, Director of the County’s Department of Criminal Justice Services. “One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to prevent death is to increase community access to naloxone.”
The Narcan dispensed through the community’s new vending machines comes in nasal spray. It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and blocking the effects of the drug for 30 to 90 minutes, reversing respiratory depression. Narcan is considered safe, non-addictive and effective at restoring normal breathing.
“The hope is the public having access to Narcan, anonymously, and in a trusted location like the Law and Justice Center will help eliminate barriers to access and decrease our community’s overdose rate,” adds Judge Peterson.
According to the City of Helena and based on data from the Montana death certificates, from 2017 through 2021, there have been 294 overdose-related deaths statewide, of which nearly 4 percent account for Lewis and Clark County residents.
The machines were paid for through a grant from the Institute for Intergovernmental Research and the Narcan is provided by the State of Montana Department of Health and Human Services.