Task force unveils plan to reduce overdose deaths

RI Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott_224496

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Officials say drugs claimed the lives of 239 people in Rhode Island last year, more than the number of deaths from homicide, suicide and motor vehicle accidents combined.

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order in August calling for solutions to reverse the overdose epidemic, and on Wednesday the new statewide task force revealed their plan.

The proposal presented to Raimondo and a group of panelists aims to decrease overdose deaths by one-third over the next three years.

“We will not have another five years of another thousand lives lost,” said Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott. “That is absolutely what we are here to change.”

The strategic plan focuses on four key points: treatment, overdose reversals, addiction prevention and recovery.

The plan first calls for medication-assisted treatment from healthcare providers at all places opioid users are. Secondly, it seeks to expand the availability and usage of Narcan, an overdose reversal drug that many officers and EMTs are now equipped with.

The third part of the plan asks for safer prescriptions and the reduction of co-prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety.

Lastly, the proposal calls for peer recovery coaches to be available everywhere, from emergency rooms, hospitals, prisons, and even on the streets.

“I’m going to take action and call on others to support that, because we can’t allow hundreds of people to die every year,” said Gov. Raimondo.

Raimondo is set to formally accept the proposal next week.

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