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Kit of Naloxone, (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)


Librarians across the U.S. are being trained to treat overdoses

By WITW Staff on June 26, 2017

With overdoses on the rise, the opioid epidemic in America has hit an all-time high. According to recent data compiled by The New York Times, drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000 —  a 19 percent increase over 2015 and the largest annual jump ever recorded. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 and there seems to be no end in sight. To help combat this ever-growing problem, more and more employees in the public sector are being trained to assist in cases of overdose, and leading the charge of first responders are librarians.

In three major cities —  Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver — librarians are being trained to use the drug naloxone, known commonly as Narcan, to help reverse the effects of overdoses. Training comes in response to a rise in overdoses occurring in libraries, spaces that are traditionally used as communal spaces in impoverished neighborhoods and act as refuge during the day for the homeless.

Philadelphia’s McPherson Square Park, librarian Chera Kawolski — who has saved six people using Narcan since April — has seen first-hand the impact of the opioid craze on her community. Library patrons are now required to show an ID before entering the restrooms and administration has had to hire monitors to enforce a strict, five-minute time limit. In recent months, “drug tourists,” or those who travel from state to state to find heroin, have inundated the area. Last year alone, the library had to close for three days because used needles had backed up its sewage system.

In an interview conducted by CNN, Julie Todaro, president of the American Library Association, addressed the urgency of the situation, saying, “We have to figure out quickly the critical steps that people have to take so we can be partners in the solution of this problem.” While the plan will vary by community, Todaro said that the ALA is working to create a guide or “the role of the library in stepping in on this opiate addiction.”

According to data comprised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. “I understand where they’re coming from and why they’re doing it,” said Kowalski, whose parents used to be heroin users. “I just keep faith and hope that one day they get the chance and the opportunity to get clean.”

Read the full story at CNN.  


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