PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With naloxone reportedly in short supply nationwide, the Rhode Island Foundation has announced a $250,000 grant to help fill the gap.
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is an emergency medication that can save the life of a person who’s overdosed on opioids.
According to the foundation, the grant will allow the University of Rhode Island’s Community First Responder Program (CFRP) to buy approximately 3,000 Narcan kits and distribute them to community-based recovery and harm reduction organizations.
“Narcan kits are a simple solution to a deadly problem,” RI Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg said in a news release. “While our funding will save lives, it’s just a large, yet critically needed, ‘band aid’ until a sustainable funding source is put in place.”
A record 384 Rhode Islanders died of drug overdoses last year, which is a 25% increase compared to 2019, according to data from the R.I. Department of Health. Early data shows 2021 is on track to be even worse, health officials said.
Steinberg said the naloxone shortage is an opportunity for the foundation and its community partners to come together and make sure the state has the resources to address the opioid epidemic and the root causes of substance abuse disorder.
“The nature of our previous funding restricted our naloxone distribution efforts to rural areas of Rhode Island. This grant will enable us to go wherever there is a need,” added CFRP program director Anita Jacobson, PharmD. “When it comes to the drug overdose and addiction crisis, there are no borders.”
The presence of fentanyl in street drug supplies has been a major factor in the increase of overdose deaths. In fact, three out of every four overdose deaths in 2020 involved the powerful opioid, according to the Health Department.
Fentanyl can be present in powders like cocaine and heroin, health officials say, as well as counterfeit pills such as oxycodone, Adderall or benzodiazepines.
The foundation said funding for the grant comes in part from the Behavioral Health Fund, which was created with funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.