KOKOMO, Ind. – A library in central Indiana is taking steps to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic and reduce the number of overdoses taking place across the state.

On Thursday, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library’s main branch will add a Naloxone vending machine. It will be the first library in Indiana to have this type of vending machine.

Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is a medication used to reverse the effect of opioids.

“Naloxone is a huge help for people who struggle with addiction,” said Jen Cauthern, director of the Recovery Excellence Institute for Turning Point System of Care. “And specifically for opioid overdoses, it is the one thing that is so instrumental for people to get help.”

The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library is partnering up with Turning Point System of Care for the effort. It is all part of a statewide initiative Gov. Eric Holcomb announced last December.

The new machine at the Kokomo library will be one of 19 to be placed across the state. There are currently about 10 Narcan vending machines in Indiana, including ones at the Marion County Jail and Eskenazi Health Center in Indianapolis. Kokomo will be the first library to have one, though.

“We’re pretty excited to be the first ones in the state to be able to offer this,” said Trisha Shively, head of Adult and Teen Services at the Kokomo Howard County Public Library.

The partnering organizations agree this effort will help save lives.

“Addictions affect everybody,” Shively said. “They are not prejudiced against anyone. It’s needed in the community to help overcome that, to do harm reduction in the community. Our mission at the library is to create opportunities for our community to become its best. And I feel like this is just one awesome opportunity we can provide to the community.”

This effort comes at a crucial time, as the number of overdoses in the state have continuously risen at an alarming rate. According to the CDC, there was a 21% increase in fatal overdoses in Indiana from December 2020 to December 2021.

“Overdoses happens quite often, not just at home but also in the public,” Cauthern said.

She said this effort will reduce barriers and increase access to Narcan, allowing anyone to step in during the event of an overdose.

“I think that is so important, because even if you don’t know someone who struggles with addiction, you can still carry Narcan and be someone that responds with Narcan to anyone in the community,” Cauthern said.

The vending machine includes about 300 containers of Narcan. Experts suggest taking two to four containers, because while one dose can help, more than one may be required in certain situations. They also said it is very easy to use; each package includes instructions.

Turning Point System of Care has helped add seven outdoor Narcan boxes at various locations in Howard County. The organizations says the new vending machine will be very helpful because the boxes only hold 12 Narcan packs, as opposed to the 300 per machine.

Cauthern said the boxes have already proven to make a difference in the community.

“It is having an impact, she said. “We do know people need this and that they are using the boxes.”

Turning Point System of Care gave out 50 doses through the boxes within the first month and now give out about 120 to 150 doses a month at all locations with the Naloxone boxes.

The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. at its main branch on Thursday as it officially puts the vending machine into service.