If you've been paying attention at all over the past few years, you know that an opioid addiction epidemic has swept across America, affecting people across races and socioeconomic classes. Prince died of an opioid overdose, for crying out loud.
Now another American institution is feeling the effects of the health crisis: libraries, with their quiet spaces and free public access, are becoming a destination for drug users to shoot up heroin.
Although places like gas stations and restaurants experience drug users and overdoses, libraries are inherently more welcoming. They're free -- you don't even have to check out a book to use them -- and people tend to keep to themselves.
It's become such an issue that the American Library Association is encouraging librarians to be trained in overdose response. You know a health crisis is serious when librarians are literally being drafted into service as first responders. In Eureka, CA, for example, librarian Kitty Yancheff discovered a patron who had overdosed after she noticed his lips were turning blue. She successfully revitalized him by injecting the heroin antidote Narcan into his leg, and then into his arm.
"I felt grateful that we had this Narcan on hand and that we were able to save his life, but it was kind of surreal," Yancheff told the Associated Press.
With more and more libraries facing drug-related tragedies -- men were found dead in library restrooms in Norfolk, VA and Oak Park, IL from heroin overdoses this year -- employees are working to combat this epidemic. In Boston, libraries now have needle drop boxes. Although librarians are encouraged to get overdose training, the American Library Association also wants library employees to work with professionals such as police officers and social workers. It also wouldn't hurt to have an extra hand from doctors and pharmaceutical companies to help limit the runaway abuse of opioid painkillers.
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