PROVIDENCE, RI - In the last 8 years, more than 1,800 Rhode Islanders have died as the result of an overdose, one of the highest overdose rates in America. CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo and Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced a partnership to open an Opioid Center of Excellence in Woonsocket to expand access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) in northern Rhode Island. CVS Health, which is headquartered in Woonsocket, is making a $250,000 contribution to the Community Care Alliance (CCA) to open and operate the Center. CCA was recently certified by the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to operate a Center of Excellence, and CVS Health's contribution will allow for the launch of this critical service.
"The overdose epidemic is the single greatest public health crisis of our time. I am so thankful to CVS Health for stepping up to the plate to support Rhode Island's efforts to expand access to treatment and recovery," Governor Raimondo said. "This crisis has touched every community in our state. Because of CVS Health's commitment, we're going to be in a position to save lives in northern Rhode Island."
"The solution to this complex problem will require a multi-pronged effort, involving a broad group of stakeholders in health care and beyond. At CVS Health, we have been proactively working with our communities to address this epidemic in a comprehensive way. Today, we're proud to partner with Governor Raimondo to establish a new Opioid Center of Excellence focused on medication-assisted treatment and outpatient services here in Woonsocket," said Larry Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Health.
"As an organization that serves to empower individuals in our community, we are grateful to CVS Health for their generous donation that will allow us to directly help those most affected by the opioid epidemic in our state. Thanks to Governor Raimondo's leadership, members of our community are coming together to fight this crisis," said Benedict Lessing, CEO of Community Care Alliance.
As part of a comprehensive, nationally-recognized action plan, Rhode Island established a Center of Excellence model to provide outpatient treatment for Rhode Islanders suffering from substance use disorder. Centers of Excellence are certified by the State and offer MAT and additional supportive services.
Governor Raimondo made the announcement immediately prior to joining fellow governors, including Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, for a panel discussion on the overdose crisis as a part of the National Governor's Association's Summer Meeting being held this week in Rhode Island. The NGA has recognized Rhode Island's leadership in the fight against the overdose crisis and has heralded the state's Overdose Treatment and Prevention Action Plan as a model for other states.
Under Governor Raimondo's leadership, Rhode Island has pioneered the use of MAT for inmates at the Adult Correctional Institute and the state has expanded funding for peer recovery support services offered through Medicaid. Yesterday, Governor Raimondo signed an Executive Order while standing alongside the Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Richard Baum, who has committed to fighting our nation's opioid epidemic.
CVS Health, based in Woonsocket, is one of the state's top employers and the nation's largest pharmacy innovation company. This partnership builds on the company's overall commitment to address and prevent opioid abuse and misuse in the communities it serves. The company's prevention education program has reached more than 275,000 students across the U.S., its safe drug disposal program has helped eliminate more than 80 metric tons of unused medication from communities nationwide, and its work to increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone has reached 41 states.