New Orleans Health Department trains librarians on how to spot and stop an opiate overdose

NEW ORLEANS -- Opiate overdose deaths in Louisiana are above the national average, and that's precisely why the New Orleans Health Department is teaming up with local libraries in a proactive effort to help combat the opiate problem here.

More than 50 volunteers from all 14 branches of the New Orleans Public Library are learning to recognize an opiate overdose and treat it using Naloxone, an over-the-counter nasal spray used to block the effects of opioids, especially an overdose.

"You literally take off three colored pieces, screw something on, screw the other part on and you're ready to go," says Naloxone training participant Marta Siuba.

The director of the New Orleans Health Department calls it a "miracle drug." He says it's both safe and effective -- and may one day become synonymous with learning CPR.

The librarians in training are well ahead of the curve.

"Any training that I can get to make sure I can help any of our patrons continue on is why I'm here," says Naloxone training participant Kathryn New.

The move is yet another assertive response to the nationwide opioid epidemic that has hit New Orleans and Louisiana hard.

There were 166 opioid deaths in New Orleans last year. For the first time in the city's history, drug deaths surpassed homicides in 2016.

Included in the 166 opiate deaths were more than three times the number of cases involving fentanyl, a powerful and often deadly synthetic opioid.

Training librarians to spot and treat overdoses is a trend across America as libraries increasingly become the sites of fatal overdoses.

"In moving forward, we hope to make our spaces available for public training in this area because you just never know across economic levels, racial groups, this is just a pervasive issue in our community, and the library wants to be as helpful and proactive as possible,” says New Orleans Public Library Executive Director Charles Brown.