RI launches new program to address overdose crisis


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With drug overdose deaths skyrocketing both locally and nationally, state leaders are working to get struggling Rhode Islanders the help they need.

The state launched a new intervention strategy Wednesday called the “Imani Breakthrough Recovery Project,” which focuses on reaching communities of color and other historically underserved groups.

“During the pandemic, communities of color were significantly impacted, and people need to know that help is available, and it is available in a familiar and safe setting,” Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones said. “This program provides a new avenue to reach people who need services that will help them turn their lives around.”

Despite the increase in awareness and availability of harm reduction strategies, overdose deaths in the Rhode Island are increasing at an alarming rate. In particular, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has more than tripled since 2014.

The program comes to Rhode Island from Connecticut, where it began three years ago with the backing of two Yale University School of Medicine professors.

“Imani” means “faith” in Swahili and the professors’ goal was to provide recovery help through local houses of worship, where those who are struggling might feel more comfortable opening up and taking steps towards recovery.

“Going for help is really hard,” Linda Mahoney, chair of the state’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force said. “Just telling somebody – making the phone call that you need help – is probably the hardest thing people do, but going to a church and telling someone familiar, somewhere safe, makes it a little easier.”

The program will be made possibly by more than $877,000 in federal funding provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block Grants.

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