Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force unveiled an evidence-based, strategic plan today to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths in Rhode Island by one-third within three years.
"It's hard to make it in Rhode Island if you or a family member is struggling with addiction, if you can't access effective treatment or if you don't have the supports you need to maintain recovery," said Raimondo. "These are issues that affect every community in Rhode Island, and ones that will take everyone coming together to solve. I look forward to reading the plan, and know it is just the beginning of what we can accomplish together."
The Task Force, which is co-chaired by Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, and Maria Montanaro, MSW, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals, has been developing the plan since August.
"This plan will help Rhode Island families who are struggling with the impacts of addiction and overdose, and help us build healthier, stronger communities across Rhode Island," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Under the leadership of Governor Raimondo, and with the wealth of experience on this Task Force, we have laid out a road map for reducing addiction and preventing opioid overdose deaths in our state. We are excited to get to work."
"We are grateful for the vision of Governor Raimondo in bringing together this stakeholder group to create a strategy to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Rhode Island," said Director Montanaro. "This strategic plan does more than just instill a hope of recovery—it also connects those in need to effective treatment programs."
Drug overdoses have claimed more than 1,000 lives in Rhode Island in the last five years. From 2009 to 2012, there was a 32.8% increase in overdose deaths in Rhode Island. Within two years, this rate doubled (65% increase), resulting in a 119% increase in overdose deaths from 2009 to 2014.
The public has an additional two days to comment on the plan before it is delivered to the Governor next week. The plan is available online at www.health.ri.gov/news/temp/RhodeIslandsStrategicPlanOnAddictionAndOverdose.pdf.
The strategies laid out to reduce overdose deaths by one-third within three years are organized in four areas: treatment, overdose reversals, addiction prevention, and recovery. Sample strategies include: • Building statewide capacity for healthcare providers to provide medication-assisted treatment. Medication-assisted treatment combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. • Expanding the availability and use of naloxone, which is a medication used to reverse an overdose. • Reducing the co-prescribing of benzodiazepines and opioids. Benzodiazepines are drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. (Common benzodiazepines are Valium and Xanax.) • Expanding the use of recovery coach services. In addition to strategies, the plan includes cost considerations, metrics, and plans for a data dashboard for measuring progress.
Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH and Traci C. Green, PhD, MSc, two consultants who advised the Task Force and provided technical assistance in the development of the plan, lead the presentation of the plan at the Task Force's meeting today.
The Task Force includes representation from the fields of law enforcement, pharmacy, education, healthcare, and insurance, among others. More than 40 interviews were conducted with local, national, and international experts, and the Task Force held two community meetings to gather input from the public. Public input was also collected through the Task Force's website at www.strategicplanri.org.
Raimondo created the Task Force through executive order in August as part of her efforts to prevent additional overdose deaths in Rhode Island and build stronger communities and a more vibrant economy.
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