A National Crisis

National Crisis Opioid Challenge

As most librarians know, what appears in headlines will probably show up in libraries. Unfortunately, today we’re not talking about Publishers Weekly headlines. We’re talking about the opioid crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. 

A U.S. News & World Report article entitled “The New First Responders” introduces readers to some traditional first responders along with pastors, bus drivers, and Roberta Koscielski, Deputy director of Peoria Public Library (yes, that Peoria). She points out that Naloxone, the drug that can seemingly bring abusers back from the dead, comes in two versions: nasal spray and injectable. That’s a voice of experience speaking.

Recently, the state of New York changed its laws to make it possible for all public libraries in that state to administer Naloxone. The state library, in association with other state agencies, has issued guidelines to make this change as smooth as possible.

Further west, the 18 branches of the Salt Lake County library system in Utah have responded in two different ways: Its librarians are trained to administer Naloxone to library patrons in case of an overdose. In addition to that, anyone can obtain Naloxone — no questions asked — at any of those libraries. According to a TV station in neighboring Idaho, “Since the library partnership with Utah Naloxone that started in the summer of 2018, librarians in Salt Lake County have given out more than 1,300 Naloxone Rescue kits.”

These are perhaps the obvious examples of how a library might respond. In Ohio, a 2019 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, Andrea Francis, made a connection between the opioid crisis and her patrons. In Ohio, and probably in many states, more grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Now all the libraries in the Toledo Lucas County Public Library system offer parenting resources and programs for these seniors who must deal with the loss of their children from opioids, as well as the challenges of parenting in 2019.

The Facebook page Libraries and the Opioid Crisis is a great place to learn about all aspects of the crisis, along with libraries’ response to it. The page is part of ALA’s efforts, through its Public Library Association, to help public librarians be as helpful as possible as we continue to face this latest public health challenge.

PLA/ALA also hosts a site with lots of great resources for public libraries. It offers connections to online guides created by public libraries and programming offered at public libraries, along with books for young adults and adults.

Brodart has a range of titles available that address the nationwide opioid crisis. Check out the list here.