CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Charleston-based opioid outreach and recovery program is celebrating its one year anniversary of West Virginia’s first 24/7 outdoor Naloxone vending machine, as well as the distribution of nearly 300 naloxone kits since its installation.

Representatives at SOAR WV met at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Charleston’s West Side for the celebration Monday, where the recycled newspaper box has been providing access to naloxone since April 2023 following the FDAs’ approval of the first over-the-counter opioid overdose-reversal medication.

There, members of the community have not only been able to pick up naloxone, but Fentanyl test strips and Plan B, as well.

SOAR volunteer Chelsea Steelhammer said the vending machine makes it easy and accessible for those who may have an immediate need for those products, and it gets refilled every couple of days or as needed.

“Anybody can come and take what they need and there’s no stigma or anything about it, because people can just walk by whenever they want, grab it, and continue on their way, and nobody has to ask any weird questions or anything like that, they can just take what they need and go,” Steelhammer said.

Steelhammer said the 300 distributions of naloxone SOAR has tracked from the box so far, reflects the clear need for the medication of its kind in the community.

She said making such medication more accessible, like through an outdoor vending machine, is particularly vital for Charleston and Kanawha County, as they have been leading the state in fatal overdoses since 2018.

SOAR partners with various other community recovery entities to increase accessibility options, and Steelhammer said that coming together to tackle the issue helps diminish longtime biases behind addiction and potentially helps to save more lives.

“They’re being told over and over again that they aren’t wanted and then when people can see things like this that says ‘oh, we are being cared about, we are being cared for,’ it adds a lot to everybody’s worth, it makes you feel like more of a community rather than just being told to go away and get out of sight,” she said.

SOAR recently partnered with the Women’s Health Center to place a box at its location on the West Side, as well, and work is currently underway to open one up at the Living AIDS Memorial Garden on Charleston’s East End later this spring.

Steelhammer said they also give out dozens of naloxone kits at their mutual aid fairs every month, among other events. She said, however, there is always a need for the continuation to distribute them.

“It is just something that we continue to need in our community, and we need to let people know that they are needed, as well,” she said.

Steelhammer reminds people that no training is required to administer naloxone to someone, and simple, easy-to-follow instructions on how to administer it comes in every kit.

She said that, because opioid-related overdoses are so prominent here, pulling out of the epidemic must be something that is a priority everyone upholds.

“We are the overdose capitol, Charleston is, Kanawha is, West Virginia is,” Steelhammer said. “This is a thing that we have to take seriously and be prepared for.”

SOAR also locally coordinates the annual Save a Life Day, also known as Free Naloxone Day. This coming Save a Life Day, on September 26, they will partner with CareSource to install 50 free naloxone boxes across the 26 participating states that are east of the Mississippi River.

The organization is also working to expand the vending boxes across the Central West Virginia region.

If community groups are interested in getting a box of their own, you can get in touch with SOAR at