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West Virginia Sober Living receives approval for state’s first naloxone vending machine

Saving lives just got a little more accessible.

West Virginia Sober Living (WVSL), in collaboration with Monongalia County Health Department’s Quick Response Team (QRT) and Hope Hill Sobering Center, has been approved by the WV Office of Drug Control Policy and West Virginia Board of Pharmacy as a pilot site for the implementation of a naloxone vending machine.

Naloxone is also commonly known by its brand name, Narcan.

The machine will be placed at Hope Hill Sobering Center.

Jon Dower, executive director of WVSL, said, “We are thankful to Dr. Matt Christiansen, Rachel Thaxton from the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy, and Krista Capehart from the Board of Pharmacy for granting us a permit to increase access to this life-saving opioid reversal drug.”

Narcan Nasal Spray is currently a prescription medicine used to treat suspected opioid overdose emergencies with signs of breathing problems and severe sleepiness or unresponsiveness. Naloxone, the active ingredient in Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that reverses the acute effects of an opioid overdose by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain reversing the opioid’s acute effects. The protection from Narcan is short-lived, and individuals should call 911 when administering this medication.

On March 29, the US Food and Drug Administration approved an over-the-counter version of Narcan. The FDA made this decision due to an increase in opioid-related overdoses of almost 20% between
2020 and 2021. However, access to this over-the-counter version will not likely be available until the summer of 2023. According to data published on the Office of Drug Control Policy’s Data Dashboard, West Virginia experienced over 9,000 EMS responses for suspected overdoses, and preliminary data suggests more than 1,250 West Virginians lost their lives to overdoses in 2022.

“We feel that the increased opportunity to access life-saving opioid antidotes like naloxone without stigma will improve the rate of unintentional opioid deaths, which is the operational mandate that created the Monongalia County QRT,” Dr. Lee Smith, Monongalia County health officer, said.

In Morgantown, people needing access to Narcan during traditional business hours can contact Monongalia County QRT at 304-602-3305. The vending machine in Hope Hill Sobering Center, at 20 Scott Ave., will increase access to individuals desiring this life-saving medication from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. State requirements limit individuals to one dose per person, per visit, and no more than two doses per month when using the vending machine; however, state requirements will likely change due to the FDA approval of over-the-counter Narcan later this summer.

Doug Leech, CEO of Ascension Recovery Services, a Hope Hill Sobering Center managing partner, said, “Collaboration is key in addressing the substance misuse epidemic in our country. Ascension and Hope Hill Sobering Center are committed to partnering with innovative approaches to bring solutions to West Virginians. We are thrilled to collaborate with Mon QRT and West Virginia Sober Living to save more lives together than either agency could do alone.”

Hope Hill Sobering Center staff will provide Narcan training to individuals receiving this medication and provide data back to the state to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of this first-in-the-state pilot program.

Dower said, “Being born and raised in Morgantown, I feel responsible for making my community a better place. We are lucky to have the resources that Monongalia County offers. Recovery is happening in Morgantown, but we need individuals breathing to find their recovery process. Having the first machine in the state is not what matters; what matters is if this machine prevents one parent, spouse, child, or friend from having to attend a funeral, then all the work our agencies have done to make this machine a reality has been worth it.”

For more information on West Virginia Sober Living or the Narcan vending machine, please call 304-602-3305 or visit and follow the organization on Facebook for real-time updates.