San Diego Central Library jumping into fight against opioid addiction

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NBC 7’s Amber Frias reports from the Central Library downtown with more information about a unique drug overdose prevention program.

The San Diego Central Library is no longer just a haven for book lovers. 

In an effort to better serve their community, the public library has introduced new services including a drug overdose prevention program.

“A lot of us on the frontlines have seen firsthand what the opioid crisis has done,” said Monee Tong, supervising librarian.

Tong said they decided to partner up with San Diego State University and Father Joe’s Villages on a pilot program aimed at helping people battling opioid addiction.

“We connect people to information and this is another form of it,” said Tong.

The program is open to those struggling with substance abuse and willing to participate in a treatment plan that includes the use of suboxone.

“This is a medication that keeps people stabilized and really seems to reduce cravings associated with opioids,” said Megan Partch, chief health officer at Father Joe’s Villages.

Partch manages the enrollment process.

“There is a complete assessment that's done,” said Partch. “So we meet with the individual face to face, we take some labs, and we talk with them about their substance use history. There is that face-to-face interaction with a clinician and the medication does need to be prescribed by a physician.”

The services are completely free. They do ask that participants stick with it for at least 12 weeks.

“We have reached a lot of people, but they don't always actually go all the way through with seeing the doctor, it sometimes takes a few weeks,” said Lianne Urada, associate professor at the School of Social Work at SDSU.

Urada, who oversees the program logistics, says that since launching two months ago they’ve enrolled 40 people and only 10 have remained consistent.

Still, she says any success is a step forward.

“Every time we see a success, it's just very heartwarming, and it makes us so happy to go back the next day and keep trying and keep recruiting more people,” said Urada.

The library has become a place that promotes more than just literacy.

“We're always going to be the place where you can get books and help with tutoring but we're really evolving to meet different community needs and this is this is one of them,” said Tong.

Funding for the program comes from a two-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For now, the San Diego Central Library is the only one participating but Urada says the plan is for the Mission Valley Library to follow soon. 

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