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Librarians raise concerns over surge of heroin overdoses in libraries across the U.S.

September 12, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Librarians raise concerns over surge of heroin overdoses in libraries across the U.S.

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As much as people would assume libraries are the perfect place for quiet reading and studying. However, librarians have found they are becoming increasingly found themselves coming face to face with another group of individuals who go to the library to shoot up dope, which is evident with the recent string of heroin overdoses.

Local authorities across the U.S. have reported numerous heroin overdoses occurring in public places including libraries.

Police In Norfolk, Virginia, a 47-year-old man fatally overdosed after a library attendee discovered his body in the restroom. In Indiana and New Jersey, law enforcement officials said officers to heroin overdoses have had to revive people in library bathrooms using Narcan, a standard counteractant that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose.

A homeless man’s body was discovered slumped over the toilet in the bathroom of Oak Park Public Library in Chicago, and it is unclear just exactly how long he was dead before a maintenance employee found his decaying remains back in April.

An empty syringe and lighter in his pockets along with a cut up soda can in the garbage made the cause of death blatantly obvious, an unintentional overdose.

In this September 9, 2014 file photo, Ann Arbor police, firemen, and medical personnel respond to an overdose at the Ann Arbor District Library in Ann Arbor, Mich. (KATIE MCLEAN/AP)

In this September 9, 2014 file photo, Ann Arbor police, firemen, and medical personnel respond to an overdose at the Ann Arbor District Library in Ann Arbor, Mich. (KATIE MCLEAN/AP)

“On both a personal and a professional level, we were all very shocked and of course worried about how this could happen in our spaces,” said David Saleb, the executive director who terminated the security company accountable for emptying out the library before closing.

The opioid and painkiller epidemic that has spread like wildfire across the United States has led to public Heroin overdoses in various locations, including hospitals, gas stations and restaurants.the Associated Press reported.

However, according to the Associated Press,  the characteristics of public libraries leave them particularly vulnerable to these types of situations,  They’re free of charge and open to everyone, and no transaction or communication is required.

Josie Parker, the director of the Ann Arbor District Library in Michigan, stated: “People need to know that this is happening everywhere and that public libraries haven’t done anything wrong to cause it to happen in public libraries.”

Parker’s library has already taken out bathroom ceilings and toilet tanks where individuals could store their drugs and restroom doors that could be locked, which were alterations made over ten years ago to protect against cocaine trafficking.

This March 18, 2014 file photo shows Director of the Ann Arbor District Library, Josie Parker in Ann Arbor, Mich. Librarians are finding themselves face-to-face with the heroin and opiod epidemic as drug users take advantage of the free access to quiet areas where people often keep to themselves. (KATIE MCLEAN/AP)

This March 18, 2014, file photo shows Director of the Ann Arbor District Library, Josie Parker in Ann Arbor, Mich. Librarians are finding themselves face-to-face with the heroin and opioid epidemic as drug users take advantage of the free access to quiet areas where people often keep to themselves. (KATIE MCLEAN/AP)

She was concerned about drug-abuse again in 2014 when officials were reviewing a proposed park adjacent to the library.

Police frequently need to walk through and patrol the library, and social workers set up shop there, checking in with patrons. All that, Parker announced, takes away some degree of anonymity.

“Anonymity allows people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise in public places,” said Parker, “and if you can take away anonymity, you can help change behavior.”

Peace leaders from Toledo’s library system in Ohio are being prepared to assist the sheriff’s Drug Abuse Response Team, and Boston’s libraries have obtained needle drop boxes and offer overdose prevention training for workers and residents.

In Eureka, California, a librarian found an unresponsive man with his lips turning blue. Law enforcement officials in the area equipped the library with a supply of Narcan, the overdose antidote, and so Kitty Yancheff injected it into the man’s leg and arm just before he finally regained some degree of consciousness.

“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 stated.

The American Library Association urges librarians to get practice on interacting with special populations, such as the homeless and drug users, but also emphasizes the significance of partnering with groups such as police and social workers, said the association’s president, Julie Todaro.

She declared in a statement: “Clearly when you have the epidemic that we have and the issues with the patrons that we have, we need to organize assistance. That doesn’t mean we ourselves provide it.”

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