Life-saving Narcan vending machine installed in Tupper Lake

Tupper Lake’s new Harm Reduction Health Kiosk, located on the side deck of the Community Connections Outreach and Recovery Center at 64 Demars Boulevard in Tupper Lake. The vending machine is open 24/7 with free access to Narcan and fentanyl and xylazine te sst strips. (Enterprise photo — Oliver Reil)

TUPPER LAKE — Last week, Franklin County Public Health announced the installation of a second Harm Reduction Health Kiosk, this time in Tupper Lake.

“We’re happy to announce this unveiling closely on the heels of the Saranac Lake Police Department’s health kiosk installation in October. Adding round-the-clock access to life-saving products in the southern end of the county,” Lee Rivers, CEO of Community Connections, said in a Jan. 19 press release.

The Saranac Lake Police Department’s vending machine was the first of a planned 15 installed in the state and can be found in the police station’s main lobby.

Located on the side deck of the Community Connections Outreach and Recovery Center at 64 Demars Boulevard in Tupper Lake, the new vending machine is available 24/7 and dispenses free Narcan kits and instructions for use, as well as fentanyl and xylazine test strips.

Narcan is an easy-to-use nasal spray that blocks the effects of opioids on the central nervous system. Fentanyl and xylazine test strips can help drug users detect the drugs in their substances to make informed decisions before use.

Tupper Lake town Supervisor Rick Datolla said he initially had concerns about the machine’s proximity to the Municipal Park, but is OK with it.

“If it saves a life, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Accessing the machine is anonymous and requires only a universal code, birth year and zip code, with instructions printed on the machine. It will dispense up to three items per code input.

“This health kiosk represents a significant step forward in promoting Public Health safety and inclusivity within our community,” Katie Strack, public health director in Franklin County, said in the press release. “Harm reduction is not just a strategy; it’s a compassionate commitment to safe-guarding lives, fostering dignity and creating a healthier, more understanding community for all.”

Both kiosks came from New York MATTERS (Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals), which aims to provide people with substance abuse and mental health disorders treatment options and resources within their community.

Drugs in Tupper

“I think the Narcan stations are a good idea,” Tupper Lake resident Mike Delair said.

A former addict and dealer, Delair has seen the worst of addiction and the havoc it wreaks.

“I’ve lost close friends. I’ve watched family lose their kids,” he said.

Delair has lost 17 friends over the last seven years to addiction. He watched a friend leave two children behind.

“He could have been saved by Narcan,” he said.

Delair, 49, grew up in Tupper Lake, mostly on the baseball field. His dad was never around, but his mom was a softball player. As he finished his senior year of high school in 1992, he started smoking marijuana, eventually dealing. At 23, he got into cocaine, which he quickly turned into a successful business.

After several stints in jail, Delair discovered heroin. Back then, 500 bags from his supplier cost him $4,000. At his rate of $40 per bag, 500 bags made him $20,000. He is not without remorse for his role in heroin consumption in Tupper Lake.

“As much as I’m trying to help the community, I do recognize how bad I was in my younger years,” he said. “I basically created the heroin problem around here.”

Today, Delair works to combat the drug crisis in his hometown. For a while, he actually patrolled the streets at night, recording license plates and talking to dealers and addicts, trying to source the problem.

“I’m not making a huge difference, but I am making a difference,” he said. “If I saved one life in the past year, then I did my job.”

Things are different now, however. With the explosion of fentanyl and its use to supplement the weight of other drugs like heroin for higher profit, more people are dying from overdoses. Delair said some users actually seek out and use fentanyl by itself for its strength, and that some may even seek the source of another person’s overdose to get “the good stuff”.

“If people don’t have Narcan, they’re just gonna die. They’re not going to have a chance,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who will never have that chance again. They’re dead.”

Fentanyl related overdose deaths are on the rise across the nation. A study from the New York State Department of Health’s Opioid Prevention Program found that in New York, excluding New York City, there were 2,580 overdose deaths involving an opioid in 2021. Of those deaths, 91.4% — or 2,358 — involved fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer.

Xylazine, an emerging threat in the illicit drug market, was found to be involved in 5.2% of those deaths – 135 people. In all of those deaths, fentanyl was also involved.

Xylazine, or Tranq, is a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer, and is not FDA approved for human use. However, the drug is rising in popularity, often mixed with other drugs to lengthen their euphoric effect. Xylazine is a central nervous system depressant that can cause drowsiness, amnesia, slow breathing and heart rate and can bring blood pressure dangerously low.

Fentanyl testing supplies are becoming more readily available to the public since the governor’s signing of Matthew’s Law in November. The law allows local pharmacies and health care providers to provide life-saving resources like test-strips and naloxone, the generic name for Narcan, to all New Yorkers. The law is named in memory of Matthew Horan, who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in November of 2020.

Strack said via email that, prior to Friday, the public has accessed 21 doses of Narcan and eight test strip packets — four xylazine and four fentanyl — which contain 10 strips each, from the Health Kiosk.

She said Franklin County Public Health Services initiated data collection in 2022 to establish local data accessibility and reliability. In that year, the health department tracked 25 overdoses between January and November. In 2023 the health department tracked 34 overdoses — five in Tupper Lake — through November, seven of which were fatal.

The Office of Addiction Services and Supports reported that in 2022, there were 6,395 overdose deaths in New York state, 5,388 of which involved fentanyl or other synthetic opioids. There were 12 in Franklin County.

Cocaine overdose deaths saw a rapid rise between 2014 and 2019, except for a slight decrease in 2018, according to the New York State Department of Health. In 2014, the number of overdose deaths was 503, with just 38 related to “synthetic opioids other than methadone”, mainly fentanyl. In 2019, there were 1,320 deaths, 858 of which involved SOOTM, a more than 2,000% increase from 2014.

Overdose deaths involving methamphetamine in New York outside of New York City increased from 2016 to 2020. The NYSDOH reported that fentanyl was listed on a majority of death certificates. According to the report, there were 184 methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths in 2020, 152 of which involved fentanyl.

Delair admitted that he dealt fentanyl for a time and used it himself. His third overdose occurred when he put a 100 milligram fentanyl patch in his mouth.

“Fentanyl is here. It’s not going anywhere unless people start speaking up,” he said.

EMTs have saved Delair on more than one occasion, for which he is grateful. He lives with survivor’s guilt every day.

“Why me?” he asks. “Why are you still here?”

Many addicts may not even call for help in the event of an overdose for fear of criminal charges. However, New York has legislation to protect users in emergencies.

The Good Samaritan Law protects anyone that overdoses or witnesses an overdose and calls 911 from legal repercussion, except in instances of A1 felony possession of a controlled substance (8 ounces or more); sale or intent to sell controlled substances; open arrest warrants; and violation of probation or parole. Underage alcohol consumption, possession of a controlled substance less than 8 ounces (an A2 felony), possession of drug paraphernalia or marijuana and sharing drugs are all protected actions under the law.

Delair has been clean for around five years. Three weeks ago, he welcomed a child into the world. Still, he says, resisting addiction is a daily battle.

“There are times that I want to go get high but, you know what? I don’t. I have a choice today,” he said.

Delair said that although a person’s first use is completely voluntary, it’s afterward that they lose control. For current addicts, using is not a choice.

“(It’s) absolutely a choice in the beginning, but later you are a slave to whichever substance you are on,” he said.

Talking about heroin, he described that without a fix, it’s like a terrible sickness. Under the full grip of addiction, he and his friends would walk through 3 feet of snow at 4 a.m. to pick up. They had no choice. The only cure was to use.

“You need it just to start your day, just to get up and get out of the house,” he said.

Delair cited the stigma around addicts as a main obstacle for solving the problem and getting people help. He said users are seen only as addicts and junkies, not as human beings with real illness.

“It’s a disease,” he said. “To this day, I still have that stigma around me. It hurts sometimes, but it’s the truth.”

Get help

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or mental health disorders, reach out to someone. There is help. Information and treatment can be found confidentially through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-4357.


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