Denver Public Library staff equipped with opioid overdose antidote

DENVER -- Staff at Denver Public Library's central library are now carrying narcan, an opioid overdose antidote, in response to an increase in people overdosing at the library.

"As the whole nation is experiencing right now, we have an opoid epidemic. We see all kinds of customers coming in, struggling with all kinds of life challenges, including drug addiction," the central library's administrator Rachel Fewell said.

Fewell said since the library started tracking the incidents in February, staff have counted six overdoses.

"Our initial purchase was for 12 kits [of narcan] and we went through four of those really quickly so we already added to our supply at the library. We added another 36 kits and those just arrived in the last week or so," Fewell said.

Security staff and social workers carry the narcan, and Fewell said the library will decide if more people need to be equipped with the antidote in the future.

"I am happy that we can provide this service. It's not very obtrusive, it's not a really big deal, it's a nasal spray. It costs us $75 per. I think that's so worth it to be able to save someone's life," Fewell said.

Narcan works almost instantly, disrupting an overdose in progress.

Security manager Bob Knowles said staff run through a series of checks before they administer the drug.

Knowles said narcan only works for overdoses, so if they administer it to someone they believe is overdosing, but they actually are not, there are no negative side effects.

Knowles knows first-hand how quickly it can bring someone back to life.

"I don't know if I could really explain that. Quite honestly, when I did it it was simply a case of trying to save someone or bring them back or interrupt the overdose," Knowles said.

According to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four drug overdoses in 2015 was related to heroin. In 1999, just 6 percent of all overdoses were linked to heroin.

Knowles said his team has caught people overdosing in library bathrooms.

"We know that that has happened, yes, so is that a problem? Yes. If it's happened once, it's a problem," Knowles said.

The Denver Public Library is one of the first libraries in the country to start carrying narcan, but Fewell believes more libraries will join them.

"A lot of libraries are talking about this and what they are going to do to help their own populations," Fewell said.