drug overdose

Rhode Island Department of Health

The state’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Christina Stanley, has been placed on paid leave. That’s according to the department of health, where officials say the move is part of an organizational review and restructuring.

The medical examiner’s office has faced a growing workload, in part because of the number of overdose deaths its staff must investigate. But department officials say the chief’s absence will not impact the progress of investigations. They have contracts with outside physicians who can help complete some tasks.

RIPR FILE

Accidental drug overdose deaths continue to increase in Rhode Island. That’s some of the discouraging news public health experts delivered at a Rhode Island Public Health Association event.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The price of naloxone, a drug that can reverse a drug overdose, has skyrocketed. That’s affecting efforts to prevent overdose deaths. Michelle MacKenzie runs an overdose prevention program at the Miriam Hospital. She says when her program started buying and distributing the injectable overdose rescue drug naloxone, in 2006, it cost about a dollar a vial. Today it’s $15 a vial.

“So if we had to pay $15 a vial, I mean, last year we distributed upwards of 800 kits, which is 1600 vials of naloxone. We would have been like, 200. I mean, think about that,” said MacKenzie.

The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare took up a bill Wednesday to require schools to stock the anti-overdose drug naloxone.

Commonly referred to as Narcan, naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

The drug been hailed as a crucial tool in the fight against what health officials have termed an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths.

Two leaders of a heroin distribution ring have pleaded guilty in Superior Court in Providence to drug and weapons charges. The pleas come after a sixteen-month investigation to disrupt their drug trafficking organization.

Richard Pena and Henry Ortiz pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to deliver heroin and fentanyl. State police head Colonel Steven O'Donnell said that’s one result of months of work by a team of investigators from several agencies. The other is busting up a sizeable drug operation.

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