State Opioid Advisor: RI Needs New Funding, New Approaches To Fight Overdose Crisis

Feb 19, 2018

Governor Gina Raimondo’s senior advisor on drug policy, Tom Coderre, said all options should be on the table to deal with the state’s opioid crisis, including safe injection sites. 

In an interview with RIPR, Coderre said the state needs to consider all strategies to deal with opiate addiction recovery.

"Having those kinds of harm reduction strategies in our community," said Coderre, "that can help reduce overdose deaths, and provide opportunities for engagement, I think are really important. Is it the right answer for Rhode Island. I don’t know. Should we be exploring it? Absolutely."

Coderre said the state needed more federal funding to tackle the opioid crisis. He said that the Trump administration has correctly identified opioid addiction recovery as a public health emergency, but needs to do more.

"The problem is, you can declare it a public health emergency, but if funds don’t follow that, and resources don’t follow that, what are the states supposed to do?"

Coderre said he was fifteen years into his own recovery from addiction and drew on his experiences in the interview- he said he is glad that public attitudes towards addiction have changed, and that addiction is regarded more often as a disease.

"When I had my problems with my addiction they were very public. There was a lot of shame associated with that," said Coderre, "seeing it like a disease, seeing it like the public health issue that it is, is obviously getting people to respond in a whole different way"

He said states are moving away from a "lock people up, throw away the key" mentality to addiction treatment, and that it's important to remind addicts there is hope for recovery.

"Twenty-three and a half million people in this country, today, that are in long-term recovery." Said Coderre,  "And so for those folks, for myself, I think we have a lot of hope because we’ve seen it work in our own lives, and we know it’s possible for others."