First naloxone vending machine opens in San Diego with more to come


Hannah Saunders


After receiving a special delivery in February, the McAlister South Bay Regional Recovery Center in Chula Vista uncovered the county’s first naloxone vending machine. The naloxone vending machine, which went active on March 2nd, is part of San Diego County’s larger effort to reduce opioid overdoses and is a part of the city’s Harm Reduction Plan

Naloxone is a medication used to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that works by attaching itself to opioid receptors while reversing and blocking off the effects of other opioids. In certain overdose cases, multiple units of naloxone are needed for revival.


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“The naloxone vending machines are an important component of the county’s commitment to distribute more than 30,000 kits this year,” said Dr. Jessica Kattan, deputy chief population officer with San Diego County’s Behavioral Health Services.

Each vending machine can hold up to 180 naloxone kits, and each kit contains two four-milligram doses of naloxone. Individuals who are attempting to access naloxone from the vending machine must undergo online training. The training is a state code requirement for distributing naloxone and provides instructions on administration. 

After the training is completed, individuals will receive a PIN that can be plugged into the machine to access naloxone. Individuals may obtain up to three kits per day, although kits only dispense one at a time.

San Diego County aims to get the medication into the hands of everyone who needs it before an overdose occurs, while making the medication as accessible as possible.

Anita Lightfoot, communications specialist for San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, told State of Reform that the vending machines are not for emergency use, and noted that anybody who is experiencing or witnessing an overdose should call 911 for immediate medical assistance.

The county plans to install eleven additional naloxone vending machines throughout its jurisdiction.

“The second vending machine will be placed in a few months [at] a location operated by a nonprofit in a disadvantaged community that focuses on providing trauma-informed care to those healing from adverse childhood experiences,” Lightfoot told State of Reform. 

The remaining vending machines will be gradually installed during this year and are dependent upon equipment deliveries. Sites and locations of the naloxone vending machines will be accessible on 211, although the selection of several remaining sites is still underway. Promotional efforts, including a webpage and social media, are currently under development. 

“Our goal is to provide multiple points of distribution, including through outreach events and foot teams, to get this life-saving medication smartly distributed throughout our community where it can do what it does best, which is save lives,” Kattan said.