Narcan in 14 Chicago libraries to help battle opioid overdoses

A life-saving medication, which reverses an opioid overdose, is now in 14 Chicago libraries. 

"We have had people overdose inside of our building and outside the building as well," said Shilo Jefferson, Regional Director of the Legler Regional Library. 

Jefferson runs the Legler Regional Library, where just in the past month, and since the narcan box has been installed, she says they've seen four overdoses — two inside and two outside. 

"We have been asking for it for a while because it just is very much needed in this neighborhood," said Jefferson.

The library sits in West Garfield Park — a region of the city known for a high rate of drug overdoses. 

In the city of Chicago, there were 793 fatal opioid overdoses in 2018, 855 in 2019 and 1,302 in 2020.

City health officials say 38 percent of those were due to fentanyl. 

Narcan at the library appears to be a perfect fit. 

"People feel safe here, and they feel like if something happens to me, someone's gonna help me — which is the truth. So we're here to help people," said Jefferson.

Jefferson says in the handful of overdoses they've witnessed, her staff hasn't had to administer narcan yet, but they are trained if necessary. 

Patricia Johnson does narcan training as part of her duties with the Chicago Department of Public Health.


"As long as a person can breathe, I was always taught that they have a chance to live, and they have a chance to make decisions for themselves," said Johnson.

Narcan does save lives, but still, some see it as enabling addiction. 

CDPH's Dr. Wilnise Jasmin says the opioid epidemic is growing, but so is awareness.

"If you just want to know what someone with an addiction looks like, all you have to do is look in the mirror because it can be any one of us," said Dr. Jasmin.

Jefferson says she is now encouraging her employees to carry narcan— even outside of work. 

"The library is not going to solve the opioid crisis by having this here, but I think that we're helping to keep people from overdosing and losing their lives," said Jefferson.

The Chicago Department of Public Health plans to add narcan to 14 more libraries, with the hope of having it in all libraries soon.