Old Newspaper Box in Ohio Repurposed as Narcan Distributor to Combat Opioid Crisis

A city in Ohio has crafted a new tool to aid the battle against the growing opioid crisis.

In Canton, Stark County, health officials have repurposed an old newspaper vending box into a free dispensary for Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan, according to ABC affiliate News 5 Cleveland. Narcan, which typically comes in the form of a nasal spray, is used to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.

The box — believed to be the first of its kind in the state, per the outlet — has been installed inside Stark Community Support Network on Harrisburg Road NE. Tiffany Skillern, executive director of the organization, told the news outlet that people can pick up Narcan from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time on weekdays — with no questions asked.

“Anyone can come,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be that you’re using drugs. I think that’s one of the misconceptions is that if you come in here, then you’ll be judged as a drug addict.”

Already, the newspaper box has become a lifeline for locals.

According to News 5 Cleveland, Stark County resident Melanie Crews came by the building last week to pick up two Narcan boxes, each of which contains two doses. Crews has family members who have experienced addiction issues, so she wants to be prepared by stowing a box in her car and her purse for anyone in the community who might need help.

“You never know when you’ll need it, so that’s why I picked it up,” Crews told the outlet. “You just never know if you’ll help a stranger in the streets or a family member.”

Raye Campbell, who works in a local group home, also picked up some Narcan boxes, and told News 5 Cleveland that she has seen firsthand how significant the need is for the life-saving medication in Stark County.

“I see a lot of people at gas stations. They’re slumped over, and everything like that, and I want to make a difference for somebody else and help them out,” Campbell said.

According to the Stark County Health Department, 131 people in the county died from an overdose in 2020, and area hospitals saw 755 emergency room visits for overdoses that year. About 76% of overdoses in 2020 involved heroin/fentanyl. In 2022, there were 159 deadly overdoses in the county.

Skillern told News 5 Cleveland that having Narcan easily available and accessible is critical because Stark Community Support Network is located in a high-need area of Canton. “We’re living in a high-poverty area, A high-crime area, so people are stressed out. We’re also seeing a lot of health disparities,” she said.

As for the resourceful idea to repurpose the newspaper box, Crews added, “What once held news now holds life.”