RI Launches New Programs To Treat Addicts, Prevent Overdoses

Apr 17, 2014

State leaders have announced some new steps in the fight against prescription painkiller and heroin addiction. The news accompanies the release of the latest grim numbers of drug overdose deaths.  

Rhode Island health department head Michael Fine told a standing-room-only crowd at the Anchor Community Recovery Center in Pawtucket that 85 people have died since January from suspected drug overdoses, mostly heroin. Hundreds more have overdosed but survived, he said, thanks to an antidote called Narcan, which first responders carry.

From left to right: State police chief Col. Stephen O'Donnell, Governor Lincoln Chafee, Health department director Dr. Michael Fine, Dept. of Behavior Health head Craig Stenning, and the Providence Center's Jim Gillen at a press conference Thursday at the Anchor Community Recovery Center in Pawtucket, discuss a reporter's question.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

“Some of our work with Narcan has been exhilarating because of the people whose lives we’ve saved," said Fine. "But some of those numbers are scary as well. Narcan has been used by EMS in Rhode Island 428 times since the first of the year.”

Fine’s colleague in the state behavioral health agency, Craig Stenning, announced two new programs to help addicts before it’s too late. This May, his agency will staff every Providence hospital with what they’re calling “recovery coaches,” to help connect patients who have overdosed or are struggling with addiction with treatment opportunities—before they leave the hospital. The department will also provide phone consultations for doctors who believe a patient needs addiction treatment but want expert assistance diagnosing the disease.