In Current Opioid Crisis, Urban Librarians Prepare for Drug Emergencies, Press Release
Providence Community Library (PCL) has partnered with Protect Families First to provide opioid overdose reversal training for staff at its nine neighborhood locations. PCL staff will learn how to administer Naloxone, a treatment that safely reverses the effects of an overdose and potentially saves lives. The Library believes that as opioid drug usage is on the rise and has been recognized now as a national public health emergency, staff should be trained to deal with overdose situations, should they ever take place in the Library. The training has been funded by a grant to Protect Families First from Rhode Island Department of Health. The RI Office of Libraries and Information Services also supported and helped to coordinate this work.
Naloxone is a medicine that can effectively reverse an opioid overdose by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. PCL library staff learn how to recognize the physical and behavioral signs of an overdose and how to administer Naloxone. People who administer Naloxone to someone who is overdosing are legally protected by the Rhode Island Good Samaritan law. The Naloxone kits are provided for free to have on-hand at each of the PCL locations through the Preventing Overdose and Naloxone Intervention (PONI) program at Miriam Hospital.
According to data from the Rhode Island Department of Health (published by preventoverdoseri.org):
• 336 Rhode Islanders lost their lives to overdose in 2016, of which 92 deaths took place in Providence
• From 2011 to 2016, the number of overdose deaths in Rhode Island nearly doubled
In 2015, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order to create an Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. One of its goals is to increase the number of overdose reversal kits distributed in the community each year to reach community saturation of Naloxone. By training its library staff in the use of such kits, PCL is supporting this statewide work.
Annajane Yolken, Executive Director of Protect Families First, compares Naloxone training to administering CPR. “While one does not want anyone to have a heart attack or other medical emergency in a public space like a library, it's important to be prepared. It’s the same with a drug overdose.” Yolken added that, because of their nature as community resources, libraries have to be prepared. “It's admirable and amazing that libraries are public spaces that can be used by anybody. Because of that, it's important that library staff have the tools to keep the space safe and intervene to safely and effectively save lives.”
Jeff Cannell, PCL Director, commented, “Vulnerable people of many kinds come into public libraries and our staff are skilled at dealing with many situations. We don’t encourage drug use but we do want patrons to feel safe and know that we care for them. We also want our staff to feel supported and empowered to deal with any emergencies that they encounter as library professionals.”