Answering a Call to Action: Preparing PublicLibraries to Respond to the Opioid Crisis
Opioid overdose deaths rose by approximately 35percent in Florida from 2019 to 2020- an increase attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic (Byrnes, 2021).t In 2019, OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) applied for, and was awarded, an IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) grant to equip public libraries as first responders in the Opioidepidemic. As output of this grant, a toolkit wasproduced that provides general action steps forpublic libraries to support their communitiesthrough the crisis. For this application MargaretZimmerman, an Assistant Professor with the FloridaState University's (FSU's) School of Information(SI) requests a grant to create and providetraining for public libraries in North Florida onutilizing the OCLC Call to Action toolkit on alocal level. This training would directly serve theNIH health disparity population of people whoexperience homelessness (socioeconomicallydisadvantaged), as there is a large overlap in thispopulation and the population that uses opioidssuch as heroin and fentanyl. This grant will buildupon Dr. Zimmerman's previous experience working inhealth information outreach to underservedpopulations to improve the health literacy ofmembers of these groups, as well as leverage theconnections she made last year in a previousiteration of this grant in which she created aTrain-the-Trainer course for community stakeholdersworking with people who are homeless and useopioids. While the opioid crisis has exploded sincethe introduction of fentanyl, people who use thesenarcotics have traditionally been medicallyunderserved due to the stigma and illegality oftheir substance abuse issues. They experience adisproportionate rate of homelessness, hunger, andendemic poverty (Matto and Cleaveland, 2016). Thepopulation of people who experience homelessnessand OUD has a significantly increased likelihood ofcontracting infectious diseases, along withheightened rates of morbidity, than the generalpopulation (Degenhardt et al., 2019; Hser et al.,2017; Wiese et al., 2018). The project that isbeing proposed is to develop training andcurricular materials on how to use the OCLC toolkitin local public libraries, with the assistance of agraduate student of health communication and basedupon educational resources provided by NIH, NLM,and the CDC. Dr. Zimmerman will then provide thesetrainings at public libraries in North Florida andSouthern Georgia, tailoring them to the local needsas evidenced by public health data and availablecommunity stakeholders. By creating anddisseminating these materials, this project willimprove health information access for thoseexperiencing homelessness and OUD (opioid usedisorder), increase awareness and utilization ofNIH, NLM, and CDC as authoritative resources onCOVID-19, and provide training and create resourcesfor the benefit of librarians, community healthworkers, and other health informationintermediaries.