The Rhode Island health department has issued more emergency regulations to deal with the state’s rising number of deaths from opioid overdoses. The new regulations require hospitals and health care professionals to report any overdoses from prescription painkillers, heroin, or other opioids to the department within 48 hours.
Right now, the only information available to the health department is about overdose deaths, and that information is often months old. Now, the Health department is asking health care professionals to report any cases of opioid overdose, whether the patient recovered or died.
Health department director Dr. Michael Fine said in a statement that the new rules are meant to attack what he calls a “public health epidemic.” The idea is to develop a more accurate, timely picture of the epidemic and how to stop it.
Hospitals must now report not only overdose deaths but some demographic details about the deceased. They must also report whether an antidote called naloxone was used and how the patient responded.
The department says that more than 70 Rhode Islanders have died from opioid overdoses since the beginning of this year, far more than the same time last year.