Your Weekly Briefing: Health In Rhode Island

Jul 26, 2016

Zika virus, up close
Credit Cynthia Goldsmith / CDC

Here’s what’s happening in health in Rhode Island (for 7/19/16 - 7/26/16): federal drug czar visits, a new college at URI, community health grants, Zika funding, addiction treatment, a sports program for disabled veterans, and a health system merger proceeds, but not as quickly as the parties would like.

  • Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy for the White House, visits Rhode Island today (Tuesday, July 26) to tour several of the state’s addiction and recovery efforts. Stops included The Providence Center’s Anchor Recovery Community Center in Pawtucket to learn more about the success of AnchorED, a program that connects overdose patients in emergency departments with peer-to-peer recovery support, and an opioid treatment program at the women’s correctional facility.
  • URI appointment: URI appoints Gary Liguori head of the newly formed College of Health Sciences. He comes to URI after a stint as head of the Dept. of Health and Human Performance at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. URI says it has reorganized its health departments and created the first new college since the 1970s. The new college includes Communicative Disorders, Health Studies, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutrition and Food Sciences, Physical Therapy and Psychology and enrolls about 3,000 undergraduate and 350 graduate students.
  • Community health grants: Rhode Island Foundation announces $300,000 available in grants to organizations promoting community health and primary care. 
  • Disabled veterans: The VA New England Health Care System's Adaptive Summer Sports Clinic, hosted by the Providence VA Medical Center with the VA Boston Health Care System, took place July 18 – 21. According to the Providence VA, “Approximately 50 disabled Veterans travelled to Rhode Island for the special rehabilitation-related sporting clinic… [which] features adaptive sporting events including cycling, golf, kayaking, sailing and deep sea fishing, as well as water skiing."
  •  Veterans ICU: The veterans health campus breaks ground on a new 10,000 square foot ICU, which is expected to be completed July 2017. According to the Providence VA, “The facility will incorporate nine inpatient care units, modern nurse stations, modern consultation rooms and adequate family space.”
  • Zika: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will award $845,000 to Rhode Island to fight the Zika virus. The award is Rhode Island’s share of about $60 million CDC is awarding to states, cities, and territories to support efforts to protect Americans from Zika virus disease and adverse health outcomes that can result from Zika infection, including the serious birth defect microcephaly. 
  • Addiction treatment: Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island removed the pre-authorization requirement for Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. A pre-authorization requirement is one that requires doctors to obtain insurance company permission before prescribing. Lifting it could speed up access and reduce possible denials of treatment. The insurer also removed its “fail first” protocol for another opioid addiction treatment, Vivitrol. The “fail first” concept is that a patient has to try other treatment modalities first and not do well on them before trying a particular treatment. Removing that requirement, again, could help more patients gain access to the particular treatment their doctor recommends they try first. 
  • The Rhode Island Dept. of Health has denied a request for an expedited review of the proposal of Care New England and Southcoast Health to affiliate. Their proposal will be reviewed according to the standard time table.