6 overdoses put Suffolk libraries on front line of drug epidemic

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- Eyewitness News has learned that at least six people have overdosed at Suffolk County libraries over the past year.

Most often, people are found in the library bathroom. Thankfully, none of the incidents was fatal.

"People are looking for quiet spaces to self-medicate, and it's a self-medication of the highest order," said Steve Chassman, the executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Hundreds of library staff members across the county have been trained to use Narcan, and Narcan kits are readily available at all Suffolk County libraries. Staff members have also been trained on how to speak with people about getting help and referring them to outside agencies.

"This is recognizing there was a need out there and that we were, in the sense, on the front lines," said Kevin Verbesey, the director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

Suffolk police said that since June 2017, they have responded to overdoses at the following libraries: Middle Country, Mastic-Shirley, Brentwood, Longwood and two at the Patchogue-Medford Public Library.

"People shouldn't be scared coming to the public library," Verbesey said. "What they should be is pleased that the libraries are preparing in case there is some type of emergency of any type."

Claudia Frizell is a librarian at the Comsewogue Public Library and said about a year or two ago. a man came into the library who she knew struggled with drug addiction.

"He looked pale and clammy," Frizell said.

She asked him if he was feeling OK, and he responded by saying he didn't sleep well the night before. He later went into the bathroom and overdosed.

Frizell said she is happy she can be there for people who may be struggling. Her son Mark died of an overdose 18 years ago.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, Suffolk County operates a 24/7 Substance Abuse Hotline at 631-979-1700.

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