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County Libraries To Distribute Opioid Overdose Drug Naloxone

Erik Neumann / KUER
The checkout desk of the West Jordan public library.

As opioid overdoses from prescription and illicit drugs continue to plague Utah, librarians who serve the public often find themselves on the front lines of the drug war. Now, libraries in Salt Lake County will be taking a proactive approach: Distributing the overdose drug naloxone. 

In the coming weeks, the 18 library branches in Salt Lake County will start giving out naloxone for free, no questions asked. Salt Lake County is one of the few library systems nationwide to take on this role, according to Liz Sollis.  

"For us this is new territory but we feel like it’s necessary territory," Sollis said. 

Overdoses occur when opioids attach to receptors in a person’s brain which causes them to stop breathing. Naloxone knocks opioids off those receptors so they can breathe again, if it’s caught in time.

Sollis said there have been no overdoses at libraries in Salt Lake County yet. But they hope to be ready if one occurs.

"People often think it’s just the homeless who might be suffering from an overdose but it could be a mom. It could be a dad. It could be just a young adult who's come to the library," she said. 

By mid-June county libraries will have naloxone available to patrons. It’s part of a partnership between the library system, Utah Naloxone and the University of Utah.  

The program does not include the Murray or Salt Lake City Public Library branches which are separate from the County’s system.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.
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