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Libraries consider stocking Narcan

Taylor Owens

Staff Writer

Last month, the State Legislature unanimously passed a law allowing trained staff members of public libraries to not be held liable for administering the drug Narcan to opioid users suffering from an overdose. Now local libraries are deciding whether they want to stock Narcan and to train their staff to use the medication.

Also known as naloxone, Narcan is a nasal spray that stops the brain's receptors from continuing to receive opioids, and sends the person into withdrawal.

Modern opioid drugs can be filled with a mixture of different kinds of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, which may be far more powerful than the user is expecting and can lead to an overdose.

“People are being encouraged to not use (opioids) alone, or to use in a public place,” Barry County Special Abuse Task Force Coordinator Liz Lenz said.

One place some people are choosing to use opioids is a library, because it's free and they can find a quiet place to be left alone.

Hastings Public Library had some staff trained to use Narcan and stocked kits last year. Library Director Peggy Hemerling said the library has not had cause to use it, but she has talked to a library director in a like-sized community in another county who had no Narcan supply when a victim overdosed in the library.

“All they could do was call 911 and watch as this person couldn't breath, and they felt helpless,” Hemerling said. While she hopes the library never has to use its Narcan, Hemerling said she is glad the state legislature voted to remove liability from local libraries.

The staff members at the Hastings library were trained in a program hosted by the county's SATF group, which also presented a training at the Delton District Library on July 10. Delton District Library Director Cheryl Bower reported that around 25-30 people attended the training and received free Narcan treatment samples. Some of those trained were her staff, which will keep kits at the library.

“Why wouldn't you want to save somebody?” Bower asked.

Other libraries, such as Thornapple Kellogg School and Community Library, Lake Odessa Community Library and Putnam District Library in Nashville are still looking into the issue. Vermontville Township Library Director Carla Rumsey said she prefers to use Vermontville EMS, which is directly across the street from the library, in the event of an overdose,

Lenz said the SATF will host the free training for as many people as they can.

“The more people that we have educated about the potential for overdose in public settings and the need to have Narcan, its all good,” Lenz said. “I wouldn't rule anybody out.”

She stressed the use of Narcan is not ideal and that the best form of prevention is educating people so they don't become addicted to opioids.  Narcan, though, is another tool to help people, she said.  Lenz also pointed out it does not harm the person being administered the nasal spray, even if they are not having an opioid overdose.

The training and Narcan kits are paid for through a grant from Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health.

Putnam District Library will host a free training session by the SATF from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday Aug. 8. Registration is required at 269-948-4200, or Attendees must be 18 or older to receive a kit.


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