The Isla Vista Community Services District is working to implement a health vending machine in the Isla Vista Community Center following approval at its Dec. 12 board meeting.
The vending machine will include harm-reduction supplies such as naloxone, fentanyl test strips and xylazine test strips. The machine will be available 24/7 and free — the first harm-reduction service of its kind in Isla Vista.
General Manager of the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) Jonathan Abboud said the machine will “help with the fentanyl crisis,” citing the death of a student who overdosed on fentanyl during Deltopia last year. According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, there were 118 total overdose deaths in 2023, with 63 of those deaths related to fentanyl.
“There is a need. When Narcan became available over the counter, we were seeing what we can do with that. But the distribution was always the question, like, ‘how do we do it efficiently?’ So the vending machine came at the perfect time for ideas we already had,” Abboud said.
Aegis, an opiate addiction treatment center in Santa Barbara, will fund the machine and its supplies. Aegis has a machine readily available from grant funding. IVCSD will cover the costs of power, maintenance and the machine’s software subscription.
Abboud said they determined the machine’s location in a November meeting to be outside the I.V. Community Center, since it was the only property they had access to.
UCSB Gauchos for Recovery currently provides free overdose prevention kits — including Narcan, the generic for naloxone and fentanyl test strips — to UCSB students. However, the 30% of I.V. residents who don’t attend UCSB don’t have access to this service, and it’s only available at certain times, Abboud said.
UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program Director Jacqueline Kurta said the 24/7 availability of these supplies contributes to the “safety of the Isla Vista community” and that it “is a necessary addition to the overdose prevention services already provided to UCSB students and I.V. residents.”
“I think it [will] reduce stigma by making it easy and accessible to get this kind of stuff pretty much anonymously. You don’t have to interact with a human to get it,” Abboud said. “If everybody can get one, anytime people see their friends using them … word of mouth will spread and they’d go get some as well.”
A potential issue for the machine, Abboud noted, is abuse of its free and unlimited service. He says that the machine currently doesn’t have limits for outtake, but its software service may be adjusted in the future to include a user database with sign-in functions.
Pacific Pride Foundation is also in the works of providing a syringe service program for the machine, Abboud said.
“Community members should reach out to us if there’s any other health and safety items they’d like to see in the vending machine. We’re gonna be studying that and working it into our budget next year to make sure we have enough supplies to keep them stocked all year,” Abboud said.
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Jan. 18, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.