Health Care

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

State Police are raising concerns about the state’s medical marijuana program. At issue is the role of caregivers, who are licensed by the state to grow a small number of plants for medical marijuana patients.

Rhode Island State Police spokesman Major Kevin O’Brien says last year police searched the homes of 21 caregivers. More than three-quarters of them were growing more marijuana than the law allows.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Advocates for patients who use medical marijuana are protesting a new bill that would quash a key component of the state’s medical marijuana program. The new bill would eliminate caregivers.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

In less than a month, a task force appointed to find nearly $180 million dollars in savings from Medicaid must deliver their recommendations to the governor.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

A group charged with finding nearly $180 million dollars in savings from Rhode Island’s Medicaid program begins the second phase of its work Monday.

Throughout March Governor Gina Raimondo’s Working Group to Reinvent Medicaid held town hall meetings across the state to gather public input. Now they must get down to the hard work of finding ways to save money. They have until the end of the month to deliver recommendations to the Governor.

  Rhode Island’s largest health care system, Lifespan, has just thrown the switch on a new electronic medical records system. Now there’s a single record for every one of the organization’s hundreds of thousands of patients. Dr. John Murphy, Executive Vice President of Physician Services at Lifespan, said that should help doctors better coordinate patient care and recommend only what’s needed.

“There will not be unnecessary testing," said Murphy, "because you can see what was done for every patient just by looking in their record.”

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 Department of Health

Dr. Michael Fine has led the state’s department of health since 2001. Friday marks his last day at the agency. 

He came to our studios this week to look back on his accomplishments, and offer some advice to his successor, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. Fine told us that, as he leaves office, Rhode Islanders are not as healthy as they could be. But despite the challenges people face, there’s progress to be proud of.


More than 75 Rhode Islanders packed a small meeting room at the Peacedale Public Library Monday, to share their suggestions for improving Medicaid while cutting costs. It was one in a series of town hall meetings held by the task force charged with finding $90 million dollars in savings in the program. Nurse Patricia Mackie told organizers how meeting a client’s basic needs first can help prevent expensive hospital stays.

“Cash to pay for prescriptions, clothing, furniture from the furniture bank, finding him an apartment.”

A technicality in the law has meant that children’s psychiatric hospitals could not compete for graduate medical education funding from the federal government. Other kinds of teaching hospitals, including general children's hospitals, have been able to apply for federal funding to train residents and fellows. But after years of trying, Rhode Island’s Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed have gotten the law changed.

Bradley Hospital’s academic director Dr. Greg Fritz says without the funding, the hospital might have to make cuts to its resident training program.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The price of naloxone, a drug that can reverse a drug overdose, has skyrocketed. That’s affecting efforts to prevent overdose deaths. Michelle MacKenzie runs an overdose prevention program at the Miriam Hospital. She says when her program started buying and distributing the injectable overdose rescue drug naloxone, in 2006, it cost about a dollar a vial. Today it’s $15 a vial.

“So if we had to pay $15 a vial, I mean, last year we distributed upwards of 800 kits, which is 1600 vials of naloxone. We would have been like, 200. I mean, think about that,” said MacKenzie.

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.

The first public meeting about Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plans for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, is scheduled for tonight in Woonsocket. Over the course of four such town hall meetings, organizers hope to gather ideas for saving the program millions of dollars as well as improving services.

The Economic Progress Institute’s Linda Katz is a member of Raimondo’s Medicaid working group.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s new budget proposes cutting millions of dollars in payments to hospitals and nursing homes. While their bottom lines have been improving, hospital officials say the cuts could hurt that recovery.

Gov. Gina Raimondo is scheduled to deliver her first State of The State address tonight. The address will give Rhode Islanders their first look at the governor’s spending priorities for the coming fiscal year.

Negotiations continue between Rhode Island Hospital and employees with the Teamsters union. The latest round of talks ended in another stalemate.

The Teamsters represent about 2500 nursing assistants, food service, and other workers at Rhode Island Hospital. They’ve threatened to strike if negotiators can’t agree on job protections and wage hikes, as well as improvements to their retirement plan.