Health Care

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.”

Komlan Soe

It’s been a year since the height of an Ebola outbreak that ravaged West Africa and kept communities in the United States on high alert.  In Rhode Island, the crisis hit home with a large Liberian and West-African born community.

A group called Ebola Be Gone emerged as a driving force for raising awareness and providing supplies for those affected. One of its leaders, Komlan Soe, joined us in the studio to reflect on how that experience brought his community together and changed his life.

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

Rhode Island’s Medicaid director, Dr. Deidre Gifford, is stepping down. A search for her replacement is underway.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The United Nurses and Allied Professionals Union has reached a new contract deal. The three-year labor agreement with Rhode Island Hospital affects some 2000 union nurses and technicians.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A $12.5 million dollar donation from toy maker Hasbro’s founding family will help launch a new institute at Brown University to study children’s health. The collaboration with local hospitals will focus on new approaches to kids’ most urgent health problems.

The early focus of the new institute will be to dig deeper into the drivers behind asthma, autism, and obesity. Hasbro Children’s Hospital pediatrician-in-chief Dr. Phyllis Dennery will help lead the effort.

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.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State health data shows that rates of bladder, lung, and colon cancer have edged up among Latinos in Rhode Island compared to whites. A conference hosted by the statewide Latino Cancer Control Task Force this week aimed to explore some of the reasons. Task force member Doctor Joseph Diaz is investigating screening rates for colon cancer.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A Brown University psychiatrist plans to test an intervention to prevent suicide among hundreds of Rhode Island inmates. 

Brown and Michigan State Universities are sharing a $6.8 million dollar federal grant to test the idea that developing a safety plan with an inmate before leaving jail can reduce the risk of suicide. Brown psychiatrist Lauren Weinstock says people behind bars are already more likely to struggle with mental illness or substance abuse.

National Institutes of Health

A new $1.6 million dollar federal grant will help the University of Rhode Island train more nurse practitioners. The idea is to help community health centers, in particular, care for more patients.

URI will use the money to hire new teachers and give students more practice in community clinics and patient homes. The goal is to graduate 109 new nurse practitioners in three years.

Rhode Island is 7th in the nation for children’s healthcare coverage. That’s according to 2014 numbers from the U.S. Census.  It’s a big jump from last year, when Rhode Island was 16th.

Today, nearly 97 percent of Rhode Island children have health insurance, up from about 94 percent in 2013. Elizabeth Burke-Bryant of the advocacy non-profit Rhode Island Kid’s Count said the leap can be partly attributed to a major PR push to get people insured, under Obamacare.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Changes to diet and exercise can have a big impact on health. But sticking with a new regimen can be tough. Scientists are wondering whether a practice called mindfulness can help. Now a team of Brown University researchers has won a multi-million dollar federal grant to find out.

National Institutes of Health

When Rhode Island health officials rolled out a new immunization requirement for seventh graders this fall, they weren’t expecting controversy. The vaccine for HPV, or human papillomavirus, protects against a sexually transmitted infection that causes most cervical, anal, and throat cancers. But a small but vocal group of opponents say the state shouldn’t mandate the HPV vaccine, and they’re taking the fight to the statehouse.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Rhode Islanders shared their experiences with the state’s health care system Tuesday night at a community center in Warwick. It’s the first of two public listening sessions. State health officials say the comments will be reflected in a plan to improve health care.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

An advocacy group opposing the new HPV vaccine requirement for seventh graders is raising money to bring the fight to the state capital. Their efforts may hit a roadblock.

 A spokeswoman says some House republicans plan to pre-file legislation aimed at reversing a new HPV vaccine requirement for middle school students. Representatives Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry) and Justin Price (R-Hopkinton, Exeter, Richmond) have spoken against the new requirement.

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