Drug addiction task force releases plan

By Bianca Buono

bbuono@abc6.com

@BiancaBuono

Three months ago, Governor Raimondo created a task force to combat the state’s drug epidemic. That group is getting to work.

"Opiate overdose is a crisis in Rhode Island. We’ve lost over a thousand Rhode Islanders to overdoses in the past five years,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.

A statewide opioid epidemic took the lives of 239 people in 2014 and 148 this year.

"These are our friends, our kids, our neighbors, our students who are dying and that doesn’t have to be that way,” Raimondo said.

A group of doctors, politicians, and industry leaders have created a strategic plan. Their goal is to reduce opioid overdose deaths by one-third within three years.

"At the end of the day, we want to stop seeing the preventable deaths that have occurred. And this group, the governor’s leadership at the statewide level, we’re ready to make the steps needed to stop them,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, a co-chair of the task force.

In their planning, the task force uncovered that half of all overdose deaths this year in Rhode Island involved fentanyl. They created a four-step plan consisting of strategies for treatment, rescue, prevention, and recovery.

"We want to take steps that will build out on each of those four strategies and come up with implementation plans that’s going to help us get it done,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott.

Governor Raimondo still has to approve this strategic plan. But she says the first message she wants to get across is that overdose and addiction should be a concern for every Rhode Island resident.

"This could be your son or daughter who plays high school sports who gets a painkiller and gets addicted. So everyone should know this is our problem,” Raimondo said.

The plan also recommends creating an online dashboard to keep the public up to date with the group’s progress. Governor Raimondo will review the plan on Friday.

© WLNE-TV 2015