Governor Chafee announces plan to curb RI's overdose deaths - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Governor Chafee announces plan to curb RI's overdose deaths

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By: Alexandra Cowley

85 people have now died from drug overdoses in Rhode Island this year. On Thursday Governor Chafee joined other state leaders to announce new efforts to deal with the growing epidemic.

Governor Chafee stood with the Department of Heath Director and State Police Colonel at Pawtucket's Anchor Recovery Center to announce a plan to curb Rhode Island's drug overdose problem.

"You have a five times greater chance of dying of a heroin overdose that a motor vehicle crash,"said Colonel Steven O'Donnell.

Part of the plan is arming State Police and a few local towns with Narcan next week. The drug first responders already use to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. This year, Narcan has been used 447 times.

It's what saved Abbie Stenberg's life.

"My progression was very fast, and it near killed me," Stenberg said.

23–year–old Stenberg, now clean, wasn't always an addict.

"When I was 14, I was known as hugs not drugs girl and I was secretary of SADD in my high school," she said.

At 15, she started with marijuana and it escalated to heroin. Stenberg says the drug is incredibly easy to find in Rhode Island and it's become more dangerous. Now cut with Fetanyl, which is similar to Morphine.

"It seems that people have lost their fear of it," she said.

Aside from administering Narcan, officials also plan on having substance abuse coaches in Emergency Rooms in Providence and Pawtucket to start. Doctors would have access to all that information and could start treatment from there.

"The last thing we want to do is say can't we afford to do this, we need to afford to do this," said Director Craig Stenning with the Department Of Behavioral Health.

Stenburg said, "the presence of Narcan and the collaboration of police and the Department of Health is so crucial, because if were treating it like the public health crisis that it is, then we can save lives together."

The Health Department has asked for help from the Centers for Disease Control. Right now, the CDC is reviewing the drug overdose deaths. Rhode Island is the first state to ask for this kind of assistance.

(C) WLNE-TV 2014

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