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Enterprise photo — Oliver Reil

TUPPER LAKE — Last week, Franklin County Public Health announced the installation of a second Harm Reduction Health Kiosk, this time in Tupper Lake.

“We’re happy to announce this unveiling closely on the heels of the Saranac Lake Police Department’s health kiosk installation in October. Adding round-the-clock access to life-saving products in the southern end of the county,” Lee Rivers, CEO of Community Connections, said in a Jan. 19 press release.

The Saranac Lake Police Department’s vending machine was the first of a planned 15 installed in the state and can be found in the police station’s main lobby.

Located on the side deck of the Community Connections Outreach and Recovery Center at 64 Demars Boulevard in Tupper Lake, the new vending machine is available 24/7 and dispenses free Narcan kits and instructions for use, as well as fentanyl and xylazine test strips.

Narcan is an easy-to-use nasal spray that blocks the effects of opioids on the central nervous system. Fentanyl and xylazine test strips can help drug users detect the drugs in their substances to make informed decisions before use

Tupper Lake town Supervisor Rick Datolla said he initially had concerns about the machine’s proximity to the Municipal Park, but is OK with it.

“If it saves a life, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Accessing the machine is anonymous and requires only a universal code, birth year and zip code, with instructions printed on the machine. It will dispense up to three items per code input.

“This health kiosk represents a significant step forward in promoting Public Health safety and inclusivity within our community,” Katie Strack, public health director in Franklin County, said in the press release. “Harm reduction is not just a strategy; it’s a compassionate commitment to safe-guarding lives, fostering dignity and creating a healthier, more understanding community for all.”

Both kiosks came from New York MATTERS (Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals), which aims to provide people with substance abuse and mental health disorders treatment options and resources within their community.

Drugs in Tupper

“I think the Narcan stations are a good idea,” Tupper Lake resident Mike Delair said.

A former addict and dealer, Delair has seen the worst of addiction and the havoc it wreaks.

“I’ve lost close friends. I’ve watched family lose their kids,” he said.

Delair has lost 17 friends over the last seven years to addiction. He watched a friend leave two children behind.

“He could have been saved by Narcan,” he said.

Delair, 49, grew up in Tupper Lake, mostly on the baseball field. His dad was never around, but his mom was a softball player. As he finished his senior year of high school in 1992, he started smoking marijuana, eventually dealing. At 23, he got into cocaine, which he quickly turned into a successful business.

After several stints in jail, Delair discovered heroin. Back then, 500 bags from his supplier cost him $4,000. At his rate of $40 per bag, 500 bags made him $20,000. He is not without remorse for his role in heroin consumption in Tupper Lake.

“As much as I’m trying to help the community, I do recognize how bad I was in my younger years,” he said. “I basically created the heroin problem around here.”

Today, Delair works to combat the drug crisis in his hometown. For a while, he actually patrolled the streets at night, recording license plates and talking to dealers and addicts, trying to source the problem.

“I’m not making a huge difference, but I am making a difference,” he said. “If I saved one life in the past year, then I did my job.”

Things are different now, however. With the explosion of fentanyl and its use to supplement the weight of other drugs like heroin for higher profit, more people are dying from overdoses. Delair said some users actually seek out and use fentanyl by itself for its strength, and that some may even seek the source of another person’s overdose to get “the good stuff”.

“If people don’t have Narcan, they’re just gonna die. They’re not going to have a chance,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who will never have that chance again. They’re dead.”

Fentanyl related overdose deaths are on the rise across the nation. A study from the New York State Department of Health’s Opioid Prevention Program found that in New York, excluding New York City, there were 2,580 overdose deaths involving an opioid in 2021. Of those deaths, 91.4% — or 2,358 — involved fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer.