Should RI Change Tack To Reduce Overdose Deaths?

Feb 27, 2017

A naloxone kit, used to reverse overdoses.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Despite efforts to raise awareness and target groups at risk, overdose deaths continue to climb in Rhode Island. More than 320 Rhode Islanders died of opioid overdoses in 2016, compared to 290 in 2015. Soon after taking office, Governor Gina Raimondo convened a task force to reduce overdose deaths. Do they need to revisit their strategy?

The task force set a goal of reducing drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island by a third by 2018. If the current trend in deaths continues, that goal could be out reach. Does the task force need to change tack? Doctor James McDonald is with the Rhode Island Department of Health and also a task force member.

“So I think where the task force is going is in a good direction. I don’t think anyone expected to solve this problem overnight. But we see a really well-engage group of stakeholders who care deeply and are working wonderfully together.”

McDonald says the state should still work hard to meet the goal. 

“2016 was still a year where lots of plans were being put in place and really things are being formed and done. You know 2017 is really a year where much of what has been done can actually be implemented and put together.”

McDonald says no one expected to solve the problem overnight. He says the task force could do a better job getting the overdose rescue drug naloxone into the hands of people at risk.