The library in Maple Ridge, like others across Canada, serves as a valuable place for the homeless and other vulnerable citizens, as refuge from cold or wet weather and providing access to books, newspapers, magazines and the Internet, for free.
As overdose deaths began to climb, libraries from Alberta to Ontario provided staff with the option of training and kits to administer naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, if one happens at a branch.
Libraries in Vancouver and throughout the Fraser Valley have reviewed such policies.
At the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows branches, the policy, in the event of a suspected overdose, is to call 911 and stand back, even if staff have been trained to use naloxone. No such kits are present, although the province announced in December that they will be available in pharmacies across B.C. for free.
Local trustee Susan Carr has advocated for their use in public schools.
A record 1,422 people in B.C. died of an illicit drug overdose in 2017. The Fraser Health Authority had the highest number of those deaths at 473. Maple Ridge had 33, the 10th highest of those in the coroner’s report.
The fear, according to the Fraser Valley Regional Library branch, is that staff, in administering naloxone, could compromise their own health or safety, by potentially coming into contact with fentanyl or another opioid, or encountering a violent person.
The Maple Ridge library had a reported 17 drug-related instances in the past year.
Calling 911 should always be the first step.
But if staff are trained to administer naloxone, and are willing to do so, and a need is present, how could one not act?
If a situation required CPR?
Naloxone is not meant to cure the opioid crisis, or turn libraries into safe injection sites. But reacting to a person in need is the humane thing to do.
CUPE even admits that naloxone is an effective means for preventing fatality from an overdose.
Why then would it not want to protect all of its library patrons?
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News