Boxes of naloxone in Columbus libraries and community overdose centers

As the global pandemic continues to garner attention with new variations and uncertainty over its end, the hidden scourge of opioid addiction has also raged, quietly claiming death.

Now, Columbus libraries and community centers are hoping wall mounted resuscitation stations called NaloxBox will help prevent overdose deaths.

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Due to supply chain issues, the Franklin County Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health Council (ADAMH) had problems getting the equipment delivered, even though funding was secured by through the opioid response program, said Shelly Hoffman, spokesperson for ADAMH.

“There were over 800 deaths in Franklin County in 2020, a 47% increase from the previous year,” Hoffman said. “We now have the resources and the equipment is there.”

Ultimately, 150 of the boxes will be distributed to locations in high-risk postal codes. The first 50 will be distributed among 13 Columbus Recreation and Parks community centers and libraries.

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The Columbus Metropolitan Library already has 12 of the boxes mounted on the walls, including on the second floor of the main downtown library.

A press conference and demonstration of the stations and devices will take place Thursday at 10 a.m. at the main library.

Each NaloxBox will contain two doses of nasal spray. The instructions tell users to check for symptoms of an overdose, administer the medication, call 911, and wait for emergency crews to arrive.

Opioids can cause breathing difficulties, sedation and potentially death. Naloxone only works if opioids are present in the body and has no effect if they are not. It usually takes 2 to 3 minutes to work and lasts 60 to 90 minutes.

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Library officials had previously decided not to put naloxone in its 23 branches, in part because of the responsibility for maintaining and restocking the units, spokesman Ben Zenitsky said. However, state funding, as well as partnerships with ADAMH and other agencies, have changed their minds and the stations are now in place, with 11 more to be installed in the coming weeks.

“Obviously, we are in the midst of an ongoing opioid epidemic. Now any good faith Good Samaritan customer can use this drug on an overdose victim.”

Zenitsky said overdoses took place in libraries, as well as in other public places.

The library is also distributing free COVID-19 test kits provided with state funding. The library system recently distributed a record 13,000 tests in one week.

Initially, 13 community recreation centers in Columbus will have the stations, spokeswoman Kerry Francis said.

And while parks and playgrounds may not seem appropriate for drug overdose awareness, Francis said many centers are in communities where they will be needed.

“Our centers are located in some of the most vulnerable places in the city,” she said. “We have a lot of violence prevention and mental health support programs,” she said.

Dustin Mets, CEO of CompDrug, the non-profit healthcare agency that will help maintain and restock stations, said the locations will raise awareness of the problem.

“I think it will open the eyes of all the people who don’t know there is something they can do to help.”


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