RI Dept. of Health

Rhode Island may not have enough primary care doctors to meet the need. That’s one conclusion from a major survey of the state’s health care inventory. Another conclusion: mental health resources are lacking.   

RI Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force

To tackle an epidemic at the population level, you need data. Lots and lots of data. That's especially true with our state, and our nation's, opioid addiction and overdose death epidemic. Scientists need to know who's using? Where? When? Why? How do they get started? Who supplies them? What else were they taking when they died? What are the other factors in their lives or communities contributing to the problem? 

Rhode Island’s health department is looking for help encouraging doctors to use a database that monitors prescription drugs. The department is adding four new positions to a new team to fight addiction and overdose.

Rhode Island received a four-year, nearly $4 million dollar grant earlier this year to fight rising rates of addiction and overdose deaths. Now the department of health is ready to put that money to use, hiring four new staffers. First, an outreach coordinator to help promote the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

There’s an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose unfolding across Rhode Island right now, and Burrillville, a small town in the northwestern corner of the state has been particularly hard hit.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy is in town speaking with the addiction and mental health community. 

Kennedy has been advocating for better and more accessible treatment for addiction and mental illness for years. In 2013 he launched the Kennedy Forum to help focus those efforts.

RI Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force

Can Rhode Island cut opioid deaths by a third in three years? That’s the goal of the state’s new strategic plan on addiction and overdose.

Law enforcement officials are turning to the courts as they look to turn the tide on a drug overdose epidemic. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says it will be increasingly common to bring murder charges against drug dealers and manufacturers involved in an overdose death.

“We actually have a case right now regarding a fentanyl death," said Kilmartin. "And that’s in the court process. And we’ll see what the outcome of the case is. It’s the first case ever prosecuted in the state like that so we’re hopeful.”

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The price of a medication that can reverse a drug overdose has doubled over the past year. Now Rhode Island  will be getting a small break in the price of Narcan (the brand name for naloxone).               

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

There are a couple of medications on the market now to help people who are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers – methadone and Suboxone (the trade name for buprenorphine). But obtaining the latter can sometimes be a challenge. A community discussion planned for tonight delves into efforts to improve access.

People who are in recovery from addiction or mental illness might be open to sharing their story with anyone who asks. Or they might not. There's still enough stigma and misunderstanding about the disease of addiction that keeping it private might feel safer.

The ADA for Addiction And Mental Illness
Just in case, though, there's the Americans with Disabilities Act. It protects people who are in recovery from or treatment for addiction or mental illness from being excluded from certain opportunities or having to disclose private health information.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

 Accidental drug overdoses kill more Rhode Islanders than car accidents, or any other kind of accident. And that’s been the trend for a while now. But there’s new energy – and new resources – to help combat this public health problem. This week on The Pulse, Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay chats with news director Elisabeth Harrison about the state’s new overdose prevention work and the federal dollars that could help sustain it.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s department of health will once again release weekly statistics on accidental drug overdose deaths – instead of monthly. The department has struggled to whittle down a backlog of investigations while keeping the public informed.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Governor Gina Raimondo has signed into law new protections for patients battling mental health and substance abuse problems.


A candlelight vigil on Monday will remember those who have died from drug overdoses. The vigil comes at a time when Rhode Island is struggling to turn the tide on heroin and prescription drug addiction.

In the past five years, Rhode Island has lost more than 1,000 people to accidental drug overdoses. An advocacy group called Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts has organized tonight’s vigil to remember them, and support their friends and loved ones.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Governor Gina Raimondo’s overdose prevention task force convenes its first meeting Wednesday. The group has been asked to develop a statewide plan to curb the epidemic of addiction and overdose.