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Thank you to our partners in the Capital Region for collaborating on this harm reduction vending machine initiative! Click here to find a vending machine near you.

Capital Region Harm Reduction Vending Machine. Image retrieved from Hudson Valley 360

Photo from Tiffany Greenwaldt-Simon/The Register-Star

HUDSON — The first free vending machine in the Twin Counties that dispenses overdose-reversal medication, as well as fentanyl and xylazine test strips was unveiled in Hudson on Wednesday.

The vending machine, located at 713 Union St. in Hudson, is a partnership between the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene, Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals (MATTERS), and Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services.

Candace Ellis, executive director of Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services, said the vending machine will make access to life saving supplies easier.

“People who use drugs deserve access, they deserve support, and they deserve kindness as we work to negate the risks associated with drug use,” she said. “A lot of the drugs that are in the drug supply right now are adulterated with other substances including fentanyl and xylazine. We want to be able to protect our clients and the community.

“Now more than ever innovative responses are needed to positively impact the lives of people who use drugs.”

To access the contents in the machine, individuals will have to enter an authentication code found on the outside of the machine, their birth year and their ZIP code.

Everything in the machine is administered free of charge and up to three items can be dispensed at a time.

Shelby Arena, harm reduction [manager] at MATTERS, said the organization has introduced 12 harm-reduction vending machines throughout New York state, and has distributed close to 10 million fentanyl and xylazine test strips, as well as 4,000 doses of Narcan since 2022.

The Vending machines are strategically placed in locations where they can be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she said.

“It is vital to get these overdose prevention supplies into the hands of our community members,” Arena said. “With the rise of morbidity and mortality rates associated with the opioid epidemic, it is important that everyone, not only people who use drugs, are prepared to respond to an overdose.”

According to data from the Columbia County Department of Health, 51 people overdosed in the county in 2023, resulting in 37 hospitalizations and eight deaths.

In Greene County, there were 81 overdoses in 2023, according to data from the Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition’s opioid data dashboard.

Hannah Calhoun, executive direction of the Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition, said harm-reduction supplies are important to address overdoses in the region.

“We can never have too much harm reduction,” she said. “It’s critical to address the overdose crisis we continue to see in our region.”

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson said the vending machine would break barriers for people getting life-saving measures.

“We do have the same test strips and naloxone at our police station, but people are less likely to go to the police station and get them,” he said. “It’s better to have it somewhere in the community where people can come and it’s a little more private.”