EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island health officials held a press conference Thursday at Kent Hospital after a recent spike in overdose deaths.
Hospital employees throughout the state are now required to report suspected overdoses to the Department of Health within 48 hours of the incident, and recently those reported numbers have gone up.
“Typically we would expect to see about 5 overdoses in the period of time we’re talking about and we saw 15 overdoses in the weekend from March 24th to March 27th,” said Department of Health Spokesperson Joseph Wendelken.
President COO Kent Hospital of Dr. Michael Dacey said that “heroin was the vast majority of those overdoses.”
According to the DOH Director, over 10 of the overdoses were also in the Kent Hospital area.
Kent Hospital treated over 250 overdoses last year.
Officials said there has been an increase in illicit drugs after state rules on prescription drugs increased.
“A larger proportion of illicit drugs now have fentanyl as a part of them and fentanyl is extremely dangerous and potent,” said Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
Required reporting of overdoses helps the DOH respond to spikes quickly, officials said. They added that in the coming weeks, they will be cracking down on hospitals for not notifying them of overdose patients within the timeframe.
The Department of Health said anyone looking for help can call 9-4-2-STOP, which is a free and anonymous resource. “It’s a free line, no insurance requirement, no questions asked. People can call and get connected with help,” said Wendelken.
On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order to study the opioid epidemic nationwide.