Library Staff Become First Responders in National Opioid Crisis
In May 2017, staff members at the Central Library in Denver, Colorado made a gruesome discovery. A 25-year-old man known only as Michael lay lifeless in the library’s public restroom. Test results later showed he died from a toxic combination of heroin, methamphetamine, and anti-anxiety drugs.
Michael’s death propelled Central Library officials into action. They began training staff on the use of a powerful opioid reversal drug called Naloxone. Since then, 350 staff members have received training and officials say they have prevented 13 overdoses so far.
Denver is not alone. As Governing reports, public libraries across the nation are teaching staff how to recognize and respond to drug overdoses. Like the Central Library, many of them are giving their employees access to Naxalone or other opioid reversal drugs.
"People can overdose anywhere, if it happens in the library, librarians are there, they are first on the scene before emergency responders so it makes sense that we would have it,” said Kelley Trahan with the Main Library in San Francisco which began distributing Naxalone to its employees after a fatal overdose in June of 2017. Federal legislation introduced last year would take these programs a step further by awarding federal grants to libraries interested in using the drug.
Because of the free services libraries provide, they have long attracted the homeless, the indigent, and those suffering from addiction. Still, the growing need for librarians to acquire skills once reserved mostly for medical and law enforcement personnel underscores just how pervasive America’s opioid epidemic has become.
Solving the crisis will take grit, policy changes, and perhaps a seismic shift at the cultural level. But on streets and in hospital beds — and now in the bathroom stalls of our local libraries — it all begins with the saving of a life.