A local nonprofit is working to reduce the stigma of addiction across the state.
Health Outreach Prevention Education, Inc. of Tulsa has launched Oklahoma’s first-ever public health vending machine, which officials say will allow individuals to receive confidential help.
The Public Health Vending Machine offers “prevention supplies” such as safer sex kits, first aid and wound care products, safe injection kits and Narcan; treatment of an opioid overdose.
After Senate Bill 511 passed in 2021, organizations across the state began providing harm reduction services like needle exchanges.
Harm reduction awareness specialist Alexa Bottoms said a majority of people who drink drugs will come into contact with hepatitis C in their lifetime.
She said the most common way to transmit the viral infection is through a used syringe.
“With these supplies that we distribute in these safe injection kits, we have sterile syringes and then anything they might need completely sterilized and all theirs and somewhere they can come back and dispose of it properly. “, said Bas.
Bottoms says it’s a pragmatic solution, but she hopes services like the Public Health Vending Machine will reduce addiction stigma and encourage people to seek help.
“Just by opening that door and starting that conversation, it really empowers people to take care of themselves and it empowers people to take care of their communities,” Bottoms explained. “It’s really important to include addicts in this conversation and that we adapt to people’s needs.”
Officials at the HOPE Clinic in Tulsa said the registration process is completely confidential and free.
Once registered, Bottoms said people will be given a unique PIN code that will allow them to access the vending machine located near the clinic’s entrance doors.
Anyone aged 13 and over can independently access the machine.
For more information, visit the clinic’s website.
A grant from Gilead Sciences helped fund the clinic’s purchase of the machine.