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New initiative brings three vending machines to Pierce County to dispense Narcan

The three vending machines will be part of a $200,000 initiative through Tacoma Needle Exchange.

ORTING, Wash. — Orting’s Recovery Café is preparing to get a new tool to help those dealing with opioid addiction.

A vending machine will be set up in the café to dispense free Narcan, which is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

It’ll be one of three vending machines that will be set up across the county as part of a $200,000 initiative through Tacoma Needle Exchange.

The Recovery Café has been helping people overcome opioid abuse in Orting since 2018.

But Executive Director Rena Thompson says combatting opioid abuse in smaller communities can be a challenge.

“With us being in this rural valley area of Pierce County, it’s really hard for people to access services that are generally in Tacoma and Lakewood areas,” Thompson said. ”Here in Orting, there’s not a bus line, there’s only one main road in and out of town, so it’s really helpful to have things that are lifesaving in our town.”

The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department points to Fentanyl as the main driver of the rapid increase in opioid-related overdose, which is now the most common cause of accidental death in the county.

There were nearly four times as many fentanyl-related deaths in 2021 as in 2019, and those deaths increased more than 80% when you compare the first half of 2021 with the first half of 2022.

Thompson says there’s also a disturbing trend she’s seeing among the youth in  Orting community.

“We’ve seen an increase in opioid use among our teens,” she says.

Thompson says having Narcan so accessible is important, so people are able to get the help they need.

“Just because we’re a small town doesn’t mean we don’t have some of the same problems as some of the larger cities,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t just happen in Tacoma or Seattle, it happens here too. It’s just not as seen.”

Alex Medina, lead case manager for the Café, also added that one of the other ways to help those dealing with addiction is to normalize conversations around drug use and remove the stigma around it. That way, those that need help and support feel more comfortable asking for it.

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