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Opioid Crisis Turning Librarians Into Emergency Responders

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Cases of opioid-related overdoses have become increasingly common in public libraries, putting staff there in the position of having to wait for emergency responders or administrating life-saving overdose drugs themselves.

Last year public library staffers in San Francisco looked into the issue when an addict was found dead in one of the Civic Center library's restrooms. Around the same time in Colorado, a spokesman for the Denver Public Library said there were six cases of people overdosing at the downtown branch.

Several of those cases were treated with Narcan, a nasal medication used to help prevent deaths by opioid overdoses. Also known as Naloxone, the medication is available to New Yorkers without a prescription at certain community-based organizations and pharmacies, for free or with insurance. A map of locations is available online.

The New York Public Library has not endorsed stocking overdose drugs.

"NYPL has partnered with organizations on Staten Island to provide trainings on administering Narcan that are open to the public," the NYPL said in a statement. "Our partners provide the training and the resources; we provide the space. We do not require nor prevent NYPL staff from self-selecting to train in Narcan, but they are not doing so under our aegis."

Opioid overdoses from drugs such as heroin and Fentanyl are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, killing more people than gun violence and car crashes.

The scope of the problem was laid out in a survey released by the National Safety Council earlier at the end of last year. It found that one in four Americans personally know someone who has overdosed or died from an opioid overdose, knows someone who has become addicted to opioids or has become addicted themselves.

In New York today, a new bill under consideration by the City Council would require schools to warn young students about the dangers of opioids.

New York City has committed to spending $38 million in an all-out push to reduce overdose deaths. Much of that money will be spent on crisis intervention, educating medical professionals to stop over-prescribing, and getting Narcan into the hands of people who can save the lives of those overdosing.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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