Life-Saving Narcan Vending Machine Access Expanded in West Michigan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of MI, Cherry Health Partnership

Karly Hurley

| 4 min read

Overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Approximately every five minutes in the U.S., a person dies from an opioid overdose. According to the CDC, a majority of overdose deaths involve opioids, and have accelerated as a result of the the COVID-19 pandemic.
Narcan – the most commonly referred to brand of Naloxone – is a potentially lifesaving medication designed to help quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Narcan is a nasal spray medication that restores breathing by blocking opioids’ effects on the brain. Since many opioid overdoses are witnessed by friends and family members, having a Narcan/Naloxone rescue kit accessible is critical. It has no potential for abuse.
Through a $20,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Cherry Health is expanding access to Narcan in West Michigan with the installation of new Narcan vending machines at two of its Grand Rapids locations. The machines provide expanded 24-hour access to free opioid overdose reversal kits. The newest vending machines are located at Cherry Health’s Southside Health Center, 2303 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, and Westside Health Center, 669 Stocking Ave. NW, both in Grand Rapids.

Reducing Stigma, Saving Lives

“We recognize there’s a stigma that’s often associated with substance use disorders, and people may be reluctant to seek treatment due to the potential judgment or disapproval of those around them,” said Ken Hayward, vice president and special assistant to the president for Community Relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “That’s why programs such as these are critical in equipping people with the life-saving tools they need while navigating a long-term treatment option. We’re proud to be part of this live-saving initiative and shifting the stigma toward more positive recovery solutions.”
Cherry Health now has four Narcan vending machines in West Michigan. In 2022, Cherry Health installed a vending machine at its Heart of the City Health Center, 100 Cherry St. SE, in Grand Rapids, and one at its Montcalm Health Center, 1003 N Lafayette St., in Greenville. “With the support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we are able to expand Narcan access throughout West Michigan and potentially save more lives by providing safe and effective overdose reversal medication in the communities we serve 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Cherry Health Chief Behavioral Health Officer Bob Smith.
Notably, each Narcan vending machine includes information about how to reach out to Cherry Health for substance use disorder treatment.

What is in a Narcan Kit?

Narcan nasal administration kits are needle-free and typically consist of the following elements:
  • Face shield for CPR rescue breathing
  • Fentanyl test strip and instructions
  • Instructions for appropriate use
  • Latex gloves
  • Two nasal spray doses of Narcan

How Do I Get a Narcan Kit Across Michigan?

The State of Michigan has taken action to assure that all Michiganders have access to Narcan by standing order. Anyone can walk into a participating pharmacy that is registered under the standing order to obtain naloxone without a prescription.

At Michigan pharmacies:

Currently, more than 1,500 pharmacies in Michigan are approved to dispense naloxone. Payment for the non-addictive medicine is covered by Medicaid and many other forms of insurance. Click here to view the entire list of pharmacies that dispense Narcan/naloxone. Narcan and naloxone products are generally covered by BCBSM; however, it should be noted that each member’s drug plans can vary on coverage and applicable out-of-pocket costs. For the most up to date coverage refer to the drug lists which can found at For Members: 2024 Drug Lists | BCBSM. If you have questions, call the number on the back of your BCBSM member ID card to:
  • Find a participating retail pharmacy by ZIP code
  • Look up lower-cost medication alternatives
  • Compare medication pricing and options

Delivered by mail:

NEXT Distro is a non-profit, online, and mail-based harm reduction service designed to reduce opioid overdose death, prevent injection-related disease transmission, and improve the lives of people who use drugs. NEXT’s mail-based services are specifically designed to assist those without health insurance and who are unable or unwilling to access in-person services in Michigan. To qualify for free mail-based Narcan/naloxone distribution, you need to view a training video, answer a short quiz, and provide enrollment information. Learn more by clicking here.
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association