Communities meet to discuss how they’re fighting the opioid epidemic

 By Brittany Comak


Twitter: @BComakABC6

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – According to Governor Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island has seen a 6.5 percent decrease in fatal opioid overdoses in the last two years.

“We have reason for hope,” Raimondo said at a summit Tuesday. “Because something that you’re doing, many things that you’re doing, is working. Because if it weren’t, we’d be seeing a spike, not a decrease.”

Under the Community Overdose Engagement or ‘CODE’ program, Rhode Island municipalities are implementing parts of the governor’s ‘strategic plan’ regarding overdose prevention and intervention, and coming up with new ways to fight the epidemic.

“Because Burrillville is not the same as Westerly, and Providence is not the same as North Kingstown,” explained Medical Director of the Department of Health Jim McDonald.

The idea for ‘safe stations’ came from CODE meetings, and now officials say three to four other communities besides Providence plan to implement them.

Other things communities plan to try include increased access to Naloxone, Fentanyl test strips, and needle exchanges.

“So what can we come up with that’s new?” posed Acting EMS Chief of the Providence Fire Department Zach Kenyon.  “What’s the different idea? What’s something that people haven’t been doing, that can really impact and change life in Rhode Island?”

Despite the decrease, officials say there is always more that can be done.

For instance – Woonsocket has seen an uptick in eight of the last ten weeks in non-fatal overdoses, which the Department of Health believes stems from people thinking they’re using Cocaine, but it’s really Fentanyl.

“What I worry about is that at some point the substance is going to change,” said Kenyon. “It’s really an addiction epidemic that we have, it’s not just an opioid epidemic.”

Going forward the governor says she’s focused on changing doctor prescribing patterns, improving access to mental healthcare, and reducing the stigma regarding addiction.

“This is the state of hope,” said McDonald after the summit. “I’m optimistic about our future.”


©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019