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H.O.P.E. Testing becomes official harm reduction site

Posted at 4:48 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 19:30:03-04

TULSA, Okla. — The first public health vending machine in Oklahoma is officially available, and it’s right here in Tulsa. The vending machine provides a variety of items, health experts say are designed to keep Oklahomans safe.

There are no drinks or snacks. Instead, there are options like syringes and Narcan. While a Senate bill paved the way for this new concept, the project coordinator says it’s a response to the high STI and Hepatitis C rates here in Oklahoma.

“We know that somewhere between 50 and 90% of injection drug users, will acquire Hepatitis C,” says Alexa Bottoms, the Project Coordinator.

Bottoms says Senate Bill 511 created a legal framework for what are called harm reduction programs in Oklahoma. The Health Outreach Prevention Education Clinic, H.O.P.E, is hosting “The Connect”, a public health vending machine.

“This was the perfect place to kind of step in and help prevent folks from acquiring Hepatitis C by giving them access to sterile syringes and sterile disposal.”

The vending machine is stocked with sterile syringes, sterile injection kits, safe sex kits, and Narcan which is a medication to reverse opioid overdose. For some, it’s the difference between life and death.

“We would really like to have Narcan in the hands of people who do use drugs because they are most often there when overdoses occur," Bottoms says.

To enroll for Connect to use the vending machine, you can call or stop by the clinic and fill out a confidential form. Bottoms says the vending machine was rolled out Monday, and already, a few people have enrolled.

“We were really eager to just kind of break down those barriers for folks and allow them to come get what they need in a private way.”

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