As part of a coordinated, statewide effort to address Rhode Island's drug overdose crisis, the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments are working to get naloxone to other municipal police departments whose officers are currently not equipped with the overdose rescue medication.
"Naloxone is an essential tool in our work to prevent overdoses and save lives, but it can only work if it is in the hands of first responders and others whose swift action can mean the difference between life and death," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "I want to thank the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments for exemplifying the kind of collaboration we need to tackle the overdose epidemic in Rhode Island."
Expanding access to naloxone is the focus of the rescue strategy of the action plan developed by Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. The other three focus areas of the plan are prevention, treatment, and recovery. The Task Force's goal is to reduce overdose deaths by one-third within three years.
In early January the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments first offered to purchase naloxone for the police departments in 10 cities and towns that were not equipping their officers with naloxone. Seven police departments (Johnston, Lincoln, Narragansett, East Greenwich, New Shoreham, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket), along with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM)'s Division of Enforcement, have since accepted the offer.
Funding from North Providence and East Providence for naloxone is coming from settlement money awarded to the cities by Google after a 2011 investigation into its advertising practices. This money has helped the Rhode Island State Police acquire naloxone since 2014.
"We are thrilled to be able to step up to the plate and help save lives in cities and towns whose police departments do not have naloxone," said North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi. "We will take advantage of any opportunity to help throughout the state."
"The overdose issue is affecting all of Rhode Island," said Colonel Christopher Parella, Chief of the East Providence Police Department. "We have to come together as a state, which means pooling resources and expertise, whenever possible, to save every life that we can. We are proud that East Providence will be able to help other police departments make sure that their officers are carrying naloxone."
Like many states across the country, Rhode Island is experiencing a spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths. Naloxone can reverse a fentanyl overdose. However, more than three doses are often needed.
Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and Rebecca Boss, Acting Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) reached out to the chiefs of the 10 police departments without naloxone and urged them to act on the offer from North Providence and East Providence. Dr. Alexander-Scott and Director Boss are the co-chairs of Governor Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.
In addition, RIDOH and BHDDH have placed naloxone in the community through targeted street outreach by peer recovery coaches. RIDOH and BHDDH have also coordinated with the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (DOC) to ensure that its staff are equipped with naloxone and that inmates receive naloxone upon release.
The offer from the North Providence and East Providence Police Departments comes as health insurers in Rhode Island are now required to cover at least one form of generic naloxone for both patients and third parties (such as individuals who are concerned that a family member or friend is at risk of an overdose). This requirement is the result of legislation that passed in 2016. The legislation was sponsored by Senator Joshua Miller and Representative David Bennett.
At least 307 people died of drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island in 2016. Drug overdoses claimed 290 lives in Rhode Island in 2015.