California university unveils Narcan vending machine to combat overdoses

Tuesday is Fentanyl Awareness Day and here in the Bay Area, people are mobilizing to bring more attention to the dangers of using synthetic opioid.  

So many people have been affected by fentanyl in recent years and on this day of awareness, health advocates say getting out information and tools like Narcan can help save lives.   

Dean Shold is Co-founder of FentCheck, a nonprofit group aiming to reduce fentanyl drug overdoses and deaths across the country. FentCheck is working with 56 bars and venues, most of them in Alameda County, to provide fentanyl test strips and Narcan or Naloxone free of charge.  

"One of the things that fentanyl has done is it created is this harm reduction movement that is necessary to help people who don’t expect a certain drug to contain fentanyl to be safe, and should they choose to take it anyway, to have things like Narcan to reverse the overdose," Shold said.    

FentCheck works with a network of volunteers to keep Narcan and test strips in stock and says he plans to expand FentCheck across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says most recent fentanyl overdose cases happen when it’s mixed with other drugs like cocaine and heroin.   

"I’ve been to more funerals than I have weddings. That is a trend that is happening more time and time again. It’s not these people you’re expecting it to be. It’s these post-grads about to get a great job, and they go out one night, they have no idea what’s going to happen the next moment," said  Ariel Perlman, a Peer Health Educator at Santa Clara University. 

Ariel Perlman and Anna Murrin are both Peer Health Educators, and they’ve worked for the last year to get this free Narcan vending machine on campus. It’s located near the student dining hall in a discreet location, so anyone can get Narcan without shame, if they need it.  

"We’re not condoning any drug use by having this. It’s just a tool to keep students safe and recognizing the realities of a college student’s life," Murrin said.   

In 2020, Santa Clara University student Charlie Ternan died after unknowingly taking a pain pill laced with fentanyl. Since then, the University has taken preventive steps to help save lives.    

"All the campus security people have Naloxone. The EMT program which is in effect in the evening, they all have it, and we have it at the student health service. So availability is important because it can save a life. You never know when you’re going to need it," said  Dr. Lewis Osofsky, Campus Physician at Santa Clara University.   

According to the CDC, over 150 people die each day from synthetic opioids like fentanyl in the United States.