By next summer, residents of Milwaukee County will begin seeing signs of a new harm reduction and prevention strategy, adopted as drug-related deaths in the area continue to rise. Plans are underway to begin deploying harm reduction vending machines to neighborhoods afflicted by a wave of drug-related deaths. The vending machines will be stocked with the anti-overdose medication Narcan, fentanyl testing strips and other supplies — all available free of charge.
“All of the literature around prevention of people dying from overdoses basically says that harm reduction is a big piece of that,” Mike Lappen, administrator at the county’s Behavioral Health Services (BHS), tells Wisconsin Examiner. Narcan, recently fentanyl test strips and safe injection supplies are key to helping people who are using drugs stay alive “while they’re in that stage where they may not be quite ready to recover,” says Lappen. “But if we help them, they’re connected to us, then when they do elect to seek treatment and try to stop using, then at least they have a relationship with us.”