WCLS partners with state, county health departments to respond to opioid crisis

Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) is partnering with the Washington State Department of Health to provide free naloxone kits to community members in need. The kits are available at WCLS’s 10 branch locations and the bookmobile. Supplies are limited but will be refilled periodically as long as WCLS can obtain additional doses. 

“We are thrilled to have our county library system as another access point for free naloxone distribution,” says Erika Lautenbach, director of Whatcom County Health and Community Services. “This increases access to overdose-reversing drugs in our more rural areas, which have typically been underserved by traditional healthcare clinics. We make progress against the epidemic of fentanyl and opioids when we all work together, and I commend WCLS for being an innovative and supportive partner in the fight against overdose deaths.”

There has been a sharp rise in opioid overdoses and deaths in the county. According to preliminary figures from Whatcom County, there were 136 overdose deaths in Whatcom County in 2023, an increase of 49% from 2022.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, naloxone can reverse an overdose from opioids — including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid medications — when given in time. The two forms of naloxone that anyone can use without medical training or authorization are prefilled nasal spray and injectable. The kits available at WCLS contain nasal spray. People who receive a naloxone kit should store it indoors in a place with consistent room temperature.  It is not advisable to store kits in car glove compartments as the medication may not be as effective when it gets cold or exposed to extreme heat.

“Especially in the rural communities we serve, the library is a critical connection to information and resources,” says WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins. “We’ve already distributed nearly 200 naloxone kits and have ordered more from the Washington State Department of Health’s Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) program. The response from community members indicates the need. We are grateful to work with medical professionals at our state and county health departments to offer improved access to this potentially life-saving medication at WCLS branches.”  

WCLS locations are Blaine Library, Deming Library, Everson Library, Ferndale Library, Island Library (Lummi Island), Lynden Library, North Fork Library (Kendall), Point Roberts Library, South Whatcom Library (Sudden Valley), Sumas Library and the bookmobile. Learn more about the library system at wcls.org. For information on fentanyl and how overdose-reversing drugs work, visit whatcomoverdoseprevention.org.