San Diego County putting Narcan in vending machines is smart

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San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher — who has spearheaded the bold overhaul and record spending of a once avaricious board in recent years — has made particular strides in public health. This was clear in the difference between the county’s decisive response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and its passive response to the 2017 hepatitis A outbreak – and in passing an annual budget of 7 .36 billion in June.

Lately the San Diego Democrat and supervisors in general have made a improved response the deadly opioid epidemic a priority. Given that he killed around 900 county residents last year, this is absolutely necessary. So does the drive to act quickly on new ways to respond to the outbreak, as ruling authorities last week announced the installation of 12 vending machines across the county that dispense free naloxone. – a drug better known by its brand name Narcan – which can quickly reverse the effects of opioid overdoses and prevent deaths. The first machines of this type made its debut in February in Philadelphia.

It’s a great idea, but the details raise questions about how big of an impact it can have. To obtain a PIN for access to naloxone, individuals must first register anonymously and complete online training, in accordance with state regulations. This may make sense to prevent dose theft, but it will probably seem too expensive and risky for many users who don’t trust the privacy promises. County officials acknowledge this and say the machines are intended to help users prepare for possible overdoses, not respond to them. They note that the machines are “one of many access points” to naloxone.

But a bolder approach is warranted. The county’s Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board recently persuaded the Sheriff’s Department that naloxone should be “readily available” to all inmates. Whenever possible, naloxone should be “readily available” to even more San Diegans.

James G. Williams