Denver Public Library: Opioid Response Profile

OCLC and the Public Library Association /
peer navigator on the phone while helping a man at the library
Peer navigator on the phone while helping a man at the library. Photo credit: Giles Clasen.

Denver Public Library’s Community Resource Program (CRP) is the foundation for the library’s response to the opioid crisis. The program launched in 2015 as a solution to staff interest in better serving individuals experiencing homelessness, and expanded to address opioid-related concerns as community needs changed. The program provides support and counseling to patrons, focusing on trauma-informed services, which is a treatment framework that includes understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.

The CRP employs four master’s level social workers and six peer navigators who provide supportive services and assist patrons in navigating social service systems every day. Internally, the staff focuses on building relationships with these individuals and creating a safe environment for them. Peer navigators also work in the community to break down stigma surrounding drug use.

In addition to the CRP, the library has provided training on naloxone, a drug which can reverse an opioid overdose, to more than 500 staff members, and stocks naloxone throughout the system (naloxone is also known by the name brand, Narcan). The library also made physical changes within the buildings, including lowering bookshelves to improve line of sight to patrons and their activities, and adding sharps containers in the bathrooms.

The Denver Public Library profile was created through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. OCLC and the Public Library Association are conducting research into how public libraries are supporting their communities through the opioid crisis, and the organizations that libraries are partnering with to meet local needs. This profile was the pre-test for the interview protocol and case study process, and was created through interviews with seven individuals: three staff members at Denver Public Library, two staff members at the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, a library board member, and a community member who has participated in the library’s Community Resource Program. We appreciate the commitment of these individuals to support this research.

Learn more about the Denver Public Library's opioid response and its partnership with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. More about the project is available on WebJunction.