Health officials: New plan will combat overdose deaths

Heroin Overdoses Antidote_118295

A kit with naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, is displayed at the South Jersey AIDS Alliance in Atlantic City, N.J. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. An overdose of opiates essentially makes the body forget to breathe. Naloxone works by blocking the brain receptors that opiates latch onto and helping the body “remember” […]

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Overdose deaths in Rhode Island are on the rise, according to recent data.

New numbers released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that illicit drug overdose deaths continue to climb, with 47,000 deaths occurring nationwide.

Rhode Island has the sixth highest rate.

Eyewitness News sat down with the state’s top doctor, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, on Tuesday. She said her team continues to fight the drug overdose epidemic.

“It’s sad. It’s not surprising but it shows us that there’s work for us to do,” she said.

Dr. Alexander-Scott is the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. She said 241 people died from overdoses in the Ocean State last year – which is up from 232 in 2013.

While the national overdose death rate increased by 14 percent last year, Rhode Island saw a smaller increase at four percent.

“We lost over a thousand lives over the last five years and we all know that does not have to happen,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said.

According to the director, the RI Health Dept. and Governor Gina Raimondo devised a statewide plan to fight overdoses, which was finalized last month. The plan focuses on four areas: treatment, prevention, reversal and recovery.

“I’m very excited, very energized by the very clear strategy we have,” she said. “The areas for us to focus on and the work that there is for us to address.”

Dr. Alexander-Scott said her team hopes to act quickly because she said the holiday season can often have devastating effects on those struggling with drug addiction.

“Sometimes we see an increase in overdose deaths and we definitely don’t want that to happen,” she said.

If you are struggling with drug abuse, you can call 211 for recovery services.

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