A special report on the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose. We examine how our problem with prescription painkiller and heroin addiction and overdose got so bad, what it's like to respond to this crisis on the front lines, and how communities, and addicts, can recover.
Police departments from across Rhode Island are reporting on the impact of the state’s relatively new Good Samaritan Law. The law shields from prosecution anyone seeking medical assistance for someone who’s experiencing a drug overdose, with exceptions for crimes involving manufacturing and distributing drugs.
The Good Samaritan law – also known as Good Sam - took effect in June 2012. And the idea was to encourage more people to call 911 for a friend who’s overdosing. Before the law, the caller could be arrested on drug possession or other charges.
In the first 9 weeks of this year, 55 Rhode Islanders have died from apparent drug overdoses. Overdose has been the number one cause of accidental death in Rhode Island since 2008, but the problem has been drawing more attention in recent days because of the surprising number of deaths this year alone. Rhode Island Public Radio health care reporter Kristin Gourlay has been at work on a documentary about drug overdose and addiction since well before the flood of recent headlines.
Rhode Island’s only independent hospital – South County – announced plans to enter talks with a nonprofit chain about a possible affiliation.
According to a statement, South County Hospital will begin exclusive talks with Southcoast Health System to explore a possible alliance. Southcoast is a nonprofit chain of hospitals, including St. Luke’s in New Bedford and Charlton Memorial in Fall River. South County is Rhode Island’s only remaining independent nonprofit hospital serving patients in southern Rhode Island.
Rhode Island’s department of health director doctor Michael Fine plans to brief state lawmakers Wednesday on the state of the state’s health.
Fine will update lawmakers on the state’s progress on certain health indicators. Smoking rates are down to about 17 percent. New cases of HIV are falling. But since his last briefing for the General Assembly, Fine said, the needle hasn’t moved in the right direction on another major health challenge – drug addiction and overdose.
Rhode Island's health department director says 45 Rhode Islanders have died from overdoses so far this year. Concerns are growing that a dangerous combination of heroin and Fentanyl is continuing to kill unsuspecting users. The state medical examiner is still investigating, but Fentanyl is suspected in many of these deaths. It's a powerful painkiller, up to 80 times more powerful than heroin. In combination it can kill even habitual users quickly. There's an antidote for overdoses from opioids like heroin and other painkillers. It's called Narcan.
A community forum on drug overdose and addiction drew a standing room only crowd at the Miriam hospital last night. Organizers hope to keep the conversation going beyond the evening’s speeches and questions.