WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Healthcare professionals and government leaders gathered in Warwick Monday for a day-long summit to address the state’s overdose epidemic, and improving access to mental health care.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says Rhode Island has an opportunity to be a leader.
“It’s not just a policy issue. It’s an issue of our families, and our friends, and sons and daughters, and people we love — whose lives are being ruined because we need to do more to help them,” Raimondo told the crowd of 250. “We can’t eliminate it, but we can make sure that the people who we love, and who deserve a chance to be successful in life — are going to get that chance.”
Health officials say 239 people in Rhode Island died from accidental overdoses in 2014.
Officials say it is not just a problem for Rhode Island. Other states saw their rate of overdose deaths increase by as much as 30 percent last year.
According to Dept. of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, Rhode Island’s increase — at two percent — is still tragic even though its lowers than the country-wide increase of 30-percent.
“That’s why we’re here today. We can stop those numbers given the creativity in this room and the people that we are representing,” said Alexander-Scott.
Alexander-Scott told Eyewitness News that the department’s monthly overdose reports will resume soon — but only confirmed cases will be considered.