The Opioid Crisis: A Look at RI Overdose Task Force

The Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force combines resources from across the state of Rhode Island in an effort to tackle the on-going opioid epidemic.

It’s an initiative that was created by Governor Gina Raimondo in 2015 with the goal of reducing overdose deaths by one third in a three year time frame.

"We’ve seen a nine percent reduction so we still have a ways to go. We are not there yet, no one is doing a celebration dance,” said Dr. Rebecca Boss, the co-chair of the task force.

The task force is made up of dozens of members from all walks of life from peer recovery coaches, to health experts to state officials, and insurers.

"All of us take what we learn here and are able to bring it back to wherever we come from,” said Boss.

The group meets monthly. They focus their efforts around a four prong action plan; prevention, rescue, treatment and recovery.

"More people die of this than many other diseases that we put a lot of money and attention to and the fact that we are paying this amount of attention to the opioid crisis in Rhode Island is really important,” said Boss.

Among the tangible results so far, more people receiving medication- assisted treatment and a larger supply of naloxone kits, the drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.

The overdose death numbers in the state are still staggering. In 2015, 290 deaths, in 2016 there were 336 and preliminary numbers for 2017 show 260 deaths. This year the goal is 160.

"Every family in Rhode Island can be affected by this crisis. This is not something that we can say belongs to somebody else. It belongs to us all,” said Boss.

The state’s task force has been called a national model. In fact, last month the surgeon general was in Rhode Island to learn more about the programs that the state is currently offering.

(C) WLNE 2018