CINCINNATI — A pandemic is spurring help for another epidemic. Nonprofit AIDS service organization Caracole has set up a "harm-reduction" supply machine in Northside, one of the first of its kind in the country, to tackle the drug epidemic.
“Money shouldn’t be a barrier to any form of healthcare, including harm reduction,” Caracole executive director Linda Seiter said.
The outside resembles an everyday vending machine, but what’s on the inside of the harm-reduction supply machine has the ability to save lives. Inside, injection kits, smoking kits, sex kits as well as NARCAN, Naloxone and pregnancy tests are available free of charge and no insurance needed.
“The idea was to connect people to harm-reduction supplies,” Seiter said. “To prevent overdose. To test their drugs for the presence of fentanyl. To provide other supplies as well.”
Caracole provides housing for people living with HIV, a case management program and focuses on prevention. Once a week, they have a syringe program.
“We know from doing harm reduction for a long time that there are people we aren’t reaching,” Caracole associate director of prevention Suzanne Bachmeyer said. “People who don’t come to syringe services.”
The machine makes these resources more accessible, but beyond what lies inside is help.
“People don’t have an opportunity to get well if they die of an overdose,” Seiter said. “That point of connection with us can be crucial with people. In terms of relationship building, and letting them know someone cares about them, and cares about their health.”
To access the supplies, people have to call a phone number to gain a client code, which can then be used at the machine on Knowlton Street in Northside. In exchange, you provide demographic-based information.
“Data is very confidential. Anonymous," Bachmeyer said. "We don’t ask a lot of questions.”
This group is hoping lives can be saved and that the pilot program could one day be used all over the Tri-State.
“I’m proud to be adding knowledge to the field, and serving people in a completely non-judgmental way,” Seiter said.