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SF library workers may get training to stop overdoses

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POSTED March 19, 2017 6:12 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco public library staffers may soon be trained to administer medication to reverse heroin overdoses among the growing number of opioid users who are homeless.

The idea surfaced after an addict was found dead in one of the Civic Center library’s restrooms in early February, the San Francisco Chronicle reports Sunday (http://bit.ly/2mJuer8).

In a Feb. 28 letter to his staff that was obtained by the Chronicle, City Librarian Luis Herrera said that a decision about training librarians to treat overdose with naloxone will not be made until the issue is fully explored. He added that if done, it would be on “a strictly voluntary basis.”

Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, typically is administered by a nasal spray or leg injection.

San Francisco’s main library has become a magnet for the city’s homeless population, which has seen an increase in users of heroin and prescription painkillers.

“San Francisco is a city with lots of drug use,” health department spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said, “and we consider people with drug-use issues part of the population we feel responsible for.”

Last week, the Department of Public Health assigned a couple of staffers to patrol the library’s perimeter to talk with people who appear to be at risk and to administer the opioid-blocking drug when needed.

The library also has a social worker and six formerly homeless health and safety associates who work at the city’s 28 public libraries and provide outreach to those in need. There are also city police officers assigned to work overtime in and around Civic Center.

The health department estimates the number of addicts injecting drugs in San Francisco at between 15,000 and 22,000.

In 2014, there were 127 fatal opioid overdoses in San Francisco, the vast majority from prescription medicines, Kagan said. The same year, there were 365 overdose reversals with naloxone, she said. In 2016, the number of reversals more than doubled, to 877.

“When an overdose occurs in the library, we are the people most likely to be on the scene, not emergency responders,” librarian Kelley Trahan recently told colleagues at a staff meeting, urging that they get on board with the naloxone program.

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