Drug overdoses on the rise, officials work on plan - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Drug overdoses on the rise, officials work on plan

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By Melissa Randall

mrandall@abc6.com

The fatal drug overdose problem may be worse than first reported. After seeing a dip, the numbers are again on the rise. There have been more than 3 dozen reported in Rhode Island in just the first 6 weeks of the year.

38 suspected accidental overdose deaths – that number is on par with the total homicides in the state last year.

Health officials are working to get ahead of the problem, outlining a plan on Friday.

The number of deaths associated with the powerful painkiller fentanyl tapered off for a bit following media coverage, but is now making a comeback. Experts say some users are seeking out a heroin-fentanyl mix because it produces a quicker, more potent high.

Health officials have come up with a plan to combat the problem and raise awareness…signing a letter on Friday asking police chiefs in local communities to begin carrying narcan – which is used to reverse heroin overdoses. State Police are taking the lead, announcing they will be the first to do so.

State Police Superintendent Colonel Stephen O'Donnell says, "We are going to train our people, put it in their cars so everyone who is a first responder has it- make sure if something does happen they are capable of not waiting for a rescue and maybe saving a life."

Walgreens is contributing training so that police officers know how to use the product. EMT's and first responders already carry narcan.

State health officials say Rhode Island is equipped to handle the problem, but families need to do their part. The state does have a Good Samaritan Law in place so families can report a drug issue without being penalized.

© WLNE-TV 2014

Follow me on Twitter @MelissaARAndall

*Correction made at 6:10 in regards to pharmacy donation

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