PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee signed a proclamation on Wednesday officially declaring September as Recovery Month in Rhode Island.
The signing took place at the Governor’s Overdose Task Force meeting, where members of the recovery community and others convened to talk about overdose prevention strategies.
McKee said addressing the overdose epidemic is one of the three pillars of his administration’s 2030 Plan to create a healthier Rhode Island.
The task force recently recommended a statewide goal to be achieved by 2030: returning the rate of fatal overdose deaths to 2018 levels and having the lowest death rates in New England.
In 2018, 314 fatal overdoses occurred. In 2022, data shows 434 Rhode Islanders lost their lives to a drug overdose, down just 1% from 2021.
“We know that 434 people is too many when we start talking about the families and the communities that this impacts,” McKee said.
Dr. Brandon Marshall, a Brown University public health researcher who tracks overdose trends, said about 50% of overdose deaths in Rhode Island occur when people are using alone.
“And that’s a major problem, because naloxone is only effective if someone is present, if they witness the overdose, and then have naloxone on hand and can administer it and save that person’s life,” Marshall explained.
A settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals provides Rhode Island with 50,000 naloxone overdose reversal kits per year for 10 years.
“If we continue to distribute naloxone at very high rates and increase the proportion of overdoses that are witnessed, we could see a rate of one death for every 60 non-fatal overdoses,” Marshall added.
Rhode Island is preparing to open one of the only safe injection sites in the country in Providence next spring, inside CODAC Behavioral Healthcare.
The center will admit people who can inject narcotics under medical supervision.