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Local nonprofit working to reduce stigma of addiction statewide

A local nonprofit is working to reduce the stigma of addiction statewide.

Tulsa's Health Outreach Prevention Education, Inc. launched Oklahoma's first-ever public health vending machine, which officials say will allow individuals to receive confidential help.

The public health vending machine offers "preventative supplies" like safer sex kits, first-aid and wound care products, safe injection kits, and Narcan; the treatment for an opioid overdose.

After the passing of Senate Bill 511 in 2021, organizations across the state began providing harm reduction services like needle exchanges.

Harm Reduction Outreach Specialist Alexa Bottoms said a majority of ingestion drug users will come into contact with Hepatitis C in their lifetime.

She said the most common way to transmit the viral infection is using a used syringe.

"With these supplies that we're giving out in those safe injection kits, we've got sterile syringes and then anything else they may need completely sterilized and all theirs as well as s a place they can come back and dispose of it properly," Bottoms said.

Bottoms says it's a pragmatic solution, but she's hoping services like the public health vending machine will reduce the stigmatization around addiction, and encourage people to seek help.

"Just by opening this door and starting this conversation it really gives people the autonomy to take care of themselves and it gives people autonomy to take care of their communities," Bottoms explained. "It's really important to include drug users in this conversation, and that we adapt to people's needs."

Officials from the H.O.P.E. Clinic in Tulsa said the enrollment process is completely confidential and free.

Once enrolled, Bottoms said people will be given a unique pin code that will allow them to access the vending machine that's located near the front doors of the clinic.

Anyone aged 13 years and older can independently access the machine.

For more information, visit the clinic's website.

A grant from Gilead Sciences helped fund the clinic's purchase of the machine.

Before making her way to Public Radio Tulsa, KWGS News Director Cassidy Mudd worked as an assignment editor and digital producer at a local news station. Her work has appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates across the country.