From the Desk of Bernard A. Margolis, New York State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries
Opioid overdose statistics released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are frightening: “91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose (that includes prescription opioids and heroin).” The Huffington Post reported that “drug overdose is the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries in the United States killing more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined, with opioid overdoses accounting for the loss of 33,091 American Lives in 2015 alone.” As opioid overdose deaths continue to rise in the United States, libraries are finding themselves increasingly on the front lines combating opioid overdoses. The media was quick to pick up the stories (see side bar).
By their very mission, libraries are prime locations for opioid addicts and potential opioid overdoses. Julie Todaro, immediate past president of the American Library Association, said that “people think of libraries as a place they can go to get out of the cold and rain and pretty much just be left alone, without judgement. So it makes sense that struggling addicts with nowhere left to turn would come to a library for help.”
What can libraries do?
Libraries can help address the opioid overdose epidemic by expanding the access and use of naloxone (a safe antidote to reverse an opioid overdose).
The State Library, working in partnership with others, is leading the way in both expanding the use of naloxone and developing strategies and guidance that will help New York’s libraries fight the opioid overdose epidemic. The State Library wants to help all libraries save lives.
To combat the continuing rise in opioid-related deaths in New York State, laws were recently enacted allowing public libraries to provide and maintain naloxone on-site in each facility to ensure ready access for use in case of an opioid overdose.
Libraries can participate by partnering with a New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) registered Opioid Overdose Prevention Program. Where can libraries get help and advice? As part of a coordinated statewide effort, the State Library, the State Education Department, the State Department of Health, the New York Library Association (NYLA), the Public Library System Directors Organization (PULISDO) and the Harm Reduction Coalition have collaborated to create Guidance for Implementing Opioid Overdose Prevention Measures in Public Libraries. In addition to the Guidance, a library-specific training webinar and sample policies and procedures will help libraries develop their own overdose prevention programs.
If you have any questions about the Opioid Overdose Prevention Measures in Public Libraries project, I encourage you to contact your public library system director or Frank Rees, Library Development Specialist, Division of Library Development, New York State Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Libraries, Saving Lives in the Stacks
Anne Ford, September/October 2017
Huffington Post, The Opioid Epidemic Is A National Public Health Emergency
Susan Blumenthal, M.D., August 9, 2017,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-opioid-epi demic-a-national-public-health-emergency_us_598b 0179e4b0f25bdfb320c9.