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Hundreds Expected at Community Event to Rewrite the End to RI's Overdose Epidemic

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the organization Creating Outreach About Addiction Support Together (COAAST) will be hosting a free, community event on Monday, January 15th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence called Owning Our Story: About the Opioid Overdose Epidemic. (An art installation and resource tables will be in place beginning at 6 p.m. The performances and speaking program will begin at 7 p.m.)

The event, which is expected to draw hundreds of Rhode Islanders, will be a chance to rewrite the ending to Rhode Island's overdose crisis. It will feature TED Talk-style presentations from local speakers, interactive skits, and small scenes from COAAST's acclaimed play, Four Legs to Stand On, about a family in crisis over an adult child's drug addiction. Featured speakers will include: Josiah Rich, MD, MPH, Professor at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Expert Advisor to Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force Paul S. Kandarian, an Army combat veteran in active recovery; and Alyssa Sullivan, yoga teacher and author who will discuss suffering and how to create authentic connection and joy. "There are stories of love behind every single person who we have lost to addiction, and there are stories of hope and redemption behind every person living in recovery," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "This event on January 15th will allow some of those stories to be voiced, and it will allow us to send the message together that there is zero shame in stepping forward and saying that you need help. We have lost more than 1,200 lives to drug overdoses in the last five years alone. We owe it to each one of those precious souls, and to their families, to do anything and everything we can to prevent any more overdoses and deaths."

Along with Director Rebecca Boss of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), Dr. Alexander-Scott co-chairs Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

COAAST is a Rhode Island-based organization that is working to end the opioid overdose epidemic through arts-based educational performances and events. The organization specializes in drama therapy, which is the use of drama and theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals. More information is available at

"The mission of Owning Our Story is to educate Rhode Islanders about addiction as a chronic disease, create healing around loss from overdose, rally around recovery, and shed conversational light on the stigma, pain, and shame of the disease," said Ana Bess, COAAST Founder, Executive Director, and playwright. "Drama therapy allows clients to practice healthy interpersonal skills, foster relationships, express their emotions, explore a drug-free future, and act out negative behaviors associated with the disease to consider the harmful impact in a concrete way. We cannot escape the stories that shape our lives, no matter how painful. Only in bringing them into the light can we re-write their endings."

View the Owning Our Story Facebook event page at For Rhode Island opioid overdose data and local treatment and recovery resources, people can visit or call 401-942-STOP (7867).

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