CRANSTON, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo, along with
members of her health cabinet, today announced that data for the first eight
months of 2017 reveal a 9% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island
from that same period during 2016.
Between January 2017 and August 2017 there were 208
accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island. Between January 2016 and
August 2016 there were 227 accidental drug overdose deaths in the state. During
the first eight months of 2015 there were 201 overall overdose deaths in Rhode
Island. Additional data about drug overdose deaths is available on RIDOH's
website and on PreventOverdoseRI.org.
"We are cautiously optimistic about the numbers we are
releasing today. There is still an enormous amount of work to do to overcome
this epidemic. Every week I am giving a hug to someone else who has lost a son
or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a mom or a dad," said Governor
Gina M. Raimondo. "We need to fight against stigma and let people know
that there is zero shame in coming out and saying that you need help. Addiction
is a disease; recovery is absolutely possible."
"This is a glimmer of hope in the uphill battle we
face," said Secretary Eric J. Beane. "The data signal that our Overdose
Prevention and Intervention Task Force has a strong plan in place. We remain
dedicated to helping Rhode Islanders on their road to recovery."
"The data being announced today suggest that our work
to get people into treatment and on the road to recovery is starting to yield
results. However, this issue absolutely remains a public health crisis and we
must push even harder now in order to see any improvements sustained,"
said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "Now is the time
to redouble our efforts-everyone has a role to play in beating back this
epidemic. Together, we can prevent overdoses and save lives."
At a press event to present the data at CODAC Behavioral
Healthcare's Cranston site, Governor Raimondo, Dr. Alexander-Scott, and
Director Boss directed Rhode Islanders who are living with substance
use-disorder to 401-942-STOP for resources available throughout the state. This
recovery hotline allows people to access services through an English and/or
Spanish-speaking counselor who is licensed in chemical-dependency. The line is
open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Governor Raimondo, Director Boss, and
Dr. Alexander-Scott were joined at the press conference by Karen Kaplan who
talked about her daughter's experience with treatment of opioid-use disorder.
"Rhode Island has been deeply affected by the opioid
overdose crisis. We still have a lot of work to do," said Director
Boss. "We need to continue to leverage the expertise of the members
of Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, as well
as our community partners as we expand our work in Prevention, Rescue,
Treatment and Recovery. Each of these areas are crucial as we chart the right
course for our state and for those living with a substance use disorder."
Dr. Alexander-Scott and Director Boss are the co-chairs of
Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. Although
the size and relative recentness of the decrease in overdose deaths prevents
state officials from attributing it to any one factor, a series of
interventions in the four areas of the Action Plan are believed to be
Treatment and Recovery
Upon entering the Rhode Island Department of Corrections
(RIDOC), individuals are screened for opioid use disorder and
medication-assisted treatment is then offered to anyone who has opioid use
Rhode Island has set up ten Centers of
Excellence throughout the state where people can receive
medication-assisted treatment and recovery services for opioid-use disorder.
Additionally, individuals who go to a Rhode Island emergency department after
an opioid overdose are introduced to recovery resources by a certified peer
recovery specialist. This program has been recognized as a model for other
The Governor's Task Force has worked with community-based
organizations, pharmacies, emergency departments, and substance-use disorder
treatment programs to provide naloxone to people at risk of experiencing or
witnessing an overdose. The state pioneered pharmacy naloxone access
regulations and delivery models, and optimized disaster assistance capacity to
help first responders get overdose prevention training.
To promote safer prescribing and decrease the risk for
opioid use disorder and subsequent overdoses, Rhode Island's regulations
for acute pain management were updated in March 2017. Opioid
prescriptions are now limited to no more than 30 morphine milligram equivalents
per day for 20 doses total, specifically for acute pain management; long-acting
or extended-release opioids are prohibited for initial prescriptions for acute
pain; and continuing education is required for prescribers on topics such as
appropriate prescribing for pain, pharmacology, potential for dependence, and
alternatives to opioids for pain management.
Major cross-cutting initiative
Rhode Island has established consistent standards for hospitals
and emergency departments statewide to provide quality care for opioid-use
disorder and overdoses. An example of a requirement in these
first-in-the-nation set of guidelines is for all hospitals and emergency
departments to provide comprehensive discharge planning that includes patient
education, connection to a peer recovery coach, and dispensing of naloxone. Our
Lady of Fatima Hospital, the Miriam Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, and
Newport Hospital, and Roger Williams Hospital have all earned Level 1
distinctions, which is the highest of the distinction in the Levels of
Care for Rhode Island Emergency Departments and Hospitals for Treating Overdose
and Opioid Use Disorder.