addiction

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Plans to establish a center where people can go to sober up, instead of the emergency room, have languished for lack of state funding. But a renewed effort to launch the program is underway.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin

Rhode Island’s Attorney General has issued guidance for law enforcement after the expiration of the Good Samaritan law. The law was created to protect people from drug charges if they call 911 about a drug overdose; it expired July 1st after lawmakers took no action to extend it before adjourning for the summer.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A law meant to encourage people to call 911 when someone overdoses will expire July 1st. An effort to extend the Good Samaritan law failed to pass the General Assembly. Now, a chorus of disapproval is rising among public health advocates.

State officials wanted a shelf date on Rhode Island’s Good Samaritan law in case it had a negative impact on law enforcement. The state attorney general says the law has barred officers from charging people with drug crimes in some cases. But National Network for Public Health Law spokesman Corey Davis said repealing the law could cost lives.

Lawmakers vote tomorrow on a bill that expands legal immunity for people who call 9-1-1 if they witness an overdose. The so-called Good Samaritan law will expire July 1st unless lawmakers vote to extend it.

Gov. Gina Raimondo says she is committed to preserving the law.       

"My focus as governor is to come up with a Good Samaritan law that we think is right and safe and encourages people to call 911 to save a life," Raimondo said.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Note: I've added a point about the Good Samaritan law, thanks to comments from readers. It's up for consideration now at the Statehouse.

A group of state and federal leaders gathered yesterday for a roundtable discussion on Rhode Island's seemingly intractable drug overdose crisis. Present for that discussion: Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), health dept. director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, behavioral health dept. director Maria Montanaro, Gov. Gina Raimondo, and head of the state police, Col. Steven O'Donnell. Reporters were invited to listen in, then ask a few questions.

Kristin / RIPR

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) has introduced legislation to make the overdose antidote drug Narcan more widely available nationwide. The legislation would make funding available to community organizations to distribute the drug and provide training.  Reed says it does not address the cost of Narcan, which has more than doubled over the past few years.

Massachusetts public health officials are looking to Rhode Island for some new ideas to combat drug overdose deaths. They're interested in a program that connects emergency room patients with addiction recovery coaches.

Doctors who want more experience treating addiction can apply for a new training program at Rhode Island Hospital. The hospital has just won accreditation from the American Board of Addiction Medicine for a new fellowship – one of just 27 addiction medicine fellowships in the country.

Rhode Island is still grappling with soaring numbers of drug overdose deaths, many of them involving the painkiller fentanyl. It's not clear the message about the dangers of fentanyl is reaching those at risk.

Aaron Read / RIPR

A Providence man has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge for selling the illicit drug fentanyl - a potent painkiller sometimes laced in heroin - that led to a woman’s overdose death. It’s the first time Rhode Island prosecutors have brought murder charges in connection with an overdose death. But the trend is taking hold nationwide.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials have rolled out a new campaign against drug addiction. The campaign debuts as the state faces more grim statistics: 232 Rhode Islanders died from apparent accidental drug overdoses in 2014, the same number as in 2013.

You may see their faces on buses, or hear their voices in public service announcements. They’re people in recovery from addiction. They include Jonathan Goyer, a former addict turned recovery counselor. He said  it will take more than advertising to fight drug addiction.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A six-month-old program to help overdose survivors get connected with addiction treatment is getting some results, according to the state’s behavioral health agency. The program puts recovery coaches on call in emergency rooms throughout Rhode Island to reach out to survivors before they’re sent home.

The recovery coaches are trained peer counselors, in recovery from addiction themselves. They try to link overdose survivors with addiction treatment, and educate them about preventing another overdose.

At a public hearing yesterday at the Dept. of Health, doctors, dentists, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurses voiced their opposition to the department's proposed regulations governing the prescribing of opioids. The new rules would require prescribers to sign a fairly lengthy agreement with patients, alerting them to the risks of taking prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, and agreeing to certain kinds of monitoring. Many health care providers feel these agreements aren't necessary and that, in fact, they're patronizing.

What do you think?

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials are considering new regulations governing how health care providers prescribe painkillers. So far this year, 212 Rhode Islanders have died from accidental drug overdoses, most involving opioids, according to the health department.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says he hopes legislation to boost funding to treat addiction will move forward this week. Whitehouse and colleagues from both sides of the aisle hosted addiction experts on Capitol Hill this morning to learn more about the challenges that remain for addicts even in recovery.

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