Staff members at the New Orleans Public Library had life-saving training this week as they learned how to administer a drug that can stop a drug overdose in its tracks.
NOLA.com reported that librarians and staff on Wednesday received a lesson on naloxone, a Food and Drug Administration-approved drug that reverses an overdose of opioids, including heroin and pain medications like morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. The training was provided by the New Orleans Health Department.
Library administrators reached out for the naloxone training as libraries and other public agencies across the country receive training on dealing with the fallout of the opioid epidemic.
“Anyone who is regularly in contact with the public should know how to use it,” Dr. Joseph Kanter, director of the Health Department, told NOLA.com.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, naloxone, which is also known by the brand name Narcan, blocks a person’s opioid receptor sites and reverses the toxic effects of the drug overdose. Naloxone can be administered through a nasal spray, by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection or through an IV injection.
Naloxone is also used in the treatment of addiction. It is combined with buprenorphine to form the drug Suboxone, which is used to wean addicts off narcotics.
WGNO in New Orleans reported that the training participants included more than 50 staff members from all 14 library branches in the city, which officials say has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. The city saw 166 opioid deaths in 2016.
It was the first time in the city’s history that drug overdose deaths surpassed homicides, the news station reported. Statewide, Louisiana’s rate of opioid overdoses was above the national average.
Training for the library staff included learning how to recognize an opiate overdose and how to administer naloxone in the form of nasal spray. Participants in the training said administering the drug was simple.
“You literally take off three colored pieces, screw something on, screw the other part and you’re ready to go,” participant Marta Siuba told WGNO.
New Orleans is not the first major city to start training its librarians to help battle the overdose crisis. Public libraries in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco have all trained their staff members to become first responders when patrons overdose.
With the uptick in deadly opioid overdoses, there has been a spate of fatal overdoses in libraries across the nation, CNN reported in June. Libraries are often daytime places of refuge for the homeless, and they offer vital services needed by residents in poor communities.
“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,” American Library Association president Julie Todaro told CNN.
Charles Brown, executive director of the New Orleans Public Library, told WGNO that he hopes to make library space available in the future for public training in the administration of naloxone.
“This is just a pervasive issue in our community, and the library wants to be as helpful and proactive as possible,” Brown said.