British Columbia

Vancouver Public Library staff now allowed to administer naloxone

The Vancouver Public Library has reversed a policy that prevented library staff from using naloxone on patrons who overdose.

Library memo originally stated staff could not administer life-saving drug while on duty

The Vancouver Public Library came under fire for directing staff not to use naloxone on an overdosing patient. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The Vancouver Public Library has reversed a policy that prevented library staff from using naloxone on patrons who overdose. 

The library came under fire this week after an internal memo surfaced stating that staff were unable to use the life-saving opioid antidote while on duty. 

The Feb. 27 memo directed staff to instead call 911. It cited the risk of a victim becoming aggressive and staff being exposed to "opioid dust," which the library said could pose liabilities. 

The City of Vancouver oversees the library's policies.

City manager Sadhu Johnston said the initial policy was conservative and based on risks that never materialized. 

"Ultimately, it raised the question of the message we were sending to others in the community and our own staff about stepping up to help during this crisis," Johnston said.

"This was the right thing to do to ensure we are all doing our part." 

Only trained staff to use naloxone 

Sarah Blyth of the Overdose Prevention Society said she was happy with the policy change. 

"No one wants to come upon a person overdosed and have the tools to help, but not be able to," Blyth said.

B.C. is grappling with an overdose crisis, with more than 1,400 illegal-overdose deaths recorded in 2017. 

The province is circulating naloxone kits to eligible employers as part of its public health response.

Only trained VPL librarians will be able to administer naloxone, the city said, and they'll be covered by Worksafe BC. 

With files from CBC's Angela Sterritt

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