February 6, 2024 at 10:57 a.m.

Columbia County opens harm reduction vending machine

Catholic Charities and partners respond to overdose epidemic
Candace Ellis, executive director of Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services (from l.), Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson and Theresa Lux, executive director at Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties, stand next to the new harm reduction vending machine in Hudson. (Photo provided)
Candace Ellis, executive director of Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services (from l.), Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson and Theresa Lux, executive director at Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties, stand next to the new harm reduction vending machine in Hudson. (Photo provided)

HUDSON — Columbia County officials and residents gathered on Jan. 31 to celebrate the ribbon cutting of a new harm reduction vending machine, installed outside of the Mental Health Association for Columbia/Greene, to improve access to life-saving supplies for individuals with substance use disorder.

Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services, Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals (MATTERS) and the Mental Health Association for Columbia/Greene (MHACG), partnered to station the new machine at 713 Union St.

“Now more than ever, innovative responses are needed to positively impact the lives of people who use drugs,” said Candace Ellis, executive director of Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services. “We are excited to be part of a collaboration that makes access to life-saving supplies easier in Columbia and Greene Counties. People who use drugs deserve access, support and kindness as we work to mitigate the risks associated with drug use.”

The vending machine, which is open 24 hours, year round, dispenses life-saving supplies such as: overdose reversal medication, naloxone, fentanyl test strips and xylazine test strips. Individuals can access up to three items at a time free of charge. To access the contents, individuals must enter the authentication code found on the outside of the machine, their year of birth and their zip code.

“I am excited MHA of Columbia Greene (MHACG) and our clubhouse programs have the opportunity to collaborate with Catholic Charities and MATTERS to provide free 24-hour public access to NARCAN, fentanyl and xylazine test strips,” said Kai Hillman, program director at MHACG. “We know that we want to give people the opportunity to utilize these methods to reduce harm and live another day. Having these available and knowing how to use them can be just as important as knowing CPR, first aid or what to do in a fire to save a life of a friend, family member or even a stranger.”

There are 13 MATTERS harm reduction vending machines installed throughout New York State. Each one is strategically placed outside treatment organizations, peer service locations, county health departments, private businesses and first responder/law enforcement agencies in specific geographic areas impacted by the ongoing overdose epidemic.

“MATTERS is committed to helping those with substance use disorder across New York State get linked to treatment and have access to harm reduction education and supplies,” said Dr. Joshua Lynch, MATTERS network chief medical officer. “Our vending machine program aims to provide easier access to these life-saving resources. Catholic Charities was one of the first partners with MATTERS in the Capital Region. We are proud of this partnership and look forward to this machine serving our community.”

For questions about MATTERS, contact Mila Pakhomova at [email protected]. To learn more about Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, go to: www.ccrcda.org.


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