After overdose deaths dropped slightly in 2019 for the first time in several years, a new program is about to be launched to help keep the trend moving in the right direction.

According to state Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson, law enforcement agencies and one type of community gathering area — the public library — will be given naloxone free of charge.

“Our goal is to get the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone into as many hands as possible, so people can save a life, so we have a chance to get someone into treatment,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she believes librarians can “be part of the solution and we’re really happy the State Library is partnering with us on that.”

The New Jersey Library Association could begin training librarians to use naloxone to revive overdose victims. Library Association officials said librarians have had to call emergency service personnel after observing people overdosing behind rows of books and in restrooms .

Johnson said some people may be surprised to hear naloxone is being given to libraries but “we’re thinking about all those places where we might have the best shot of saving a life when someone overdoses and getting that individual into treatment.”

The department has a budget this year to pay for more than $2 million worth of naxolone distribution. The money includes federal funds.

The commissioner said efforts are also being expanded to make sure health care professionals are using medication assisted treatment — MAT — to help people recover from opioid addiction.

“We’re all in on that, we’re training more docs to provide it, we are supporting people through Medicaid payment to provide it," she said.

Last year, Human Services had a free naloxone giveaway at New Jersey pharmacies and 32,000 doses were handed out in a single day.

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