Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy is in town speaking with the addiction and mental health community. 

Kennedy has been advocating for better and more accessible treatment for addiction and mental illness for years. In 2013 he launched the Kennedy Forum to help focus those efforts.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Governor Gina Raimondo has signed into law new protections for patients battling mental health and substance abuse problems.


A candlelight vigil on Monday will remember those who have died from drug overdoses. The vigil comes at a time when Rhode Island is struggling to turn the tide on heroin and prescription drug addiction.

In the past five years, Rhode Island has lost more than 1,000 people to accidental drug overdoses. An advocacy group called Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts has organized tonight’s vigil to remember them, and support their friends and loved ones.

Jim Gillen

I first met Jim Gillen, who died over the weekend after a long battle with cancer, a couple of years ago. I was reporting on skyrocketing rates of opioid addiction and overdose. And if you wanted to know about addiction and recovery in Rhode Island, you sought out Jim.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Note: I've added a point about the Good Samaritan law, thanks to comments from readers. It's up for consideration now at the Statehouse.

A group of state and federal leaders gathered yesterday for a roundtable discussion on Rhode Island's seemingly intractable drug overdose crisis. Present for that discussion: Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), health dept. director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, behavioral health dept. director Maria Montanaro, Gov. Gina Raimondo, and head of the state police, Col. Steven O'Donnell. Reporters were invited to listen in, then ask a few questions.

Massachusetts public health officials are looking to Rhode Island for some new ideas to combat drug overdose deaths. They're interested in a program that connects emergency room patients with addiction recovery coaches.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials have rolled out a new campaign against drug addiction. The campaign debuts as the state faces more grim statistics: 232 Rhode Islanders died from apparent accidental drug overdoses in 2014, the same number as in 2013.

You may see their faces on buses, or hear their voices in public service announcements. They’re people in recovery from addiction. They include Jonathan Goyer, a former addict turned recovery counselor. He said  it will take more than advertising to fight drug addiction.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A six-month-old program to help overdose survivors get connected with addiction treatment is getting some results, according to the state’s behavioral health agency. The program puts recovery coaches on call in emergency rooms throughout Rhode Island to reach out to survivors before they’re sent home.

The recovery coaches are trained peer counselors, in recovery from addiction themselves. They try to link overdose survivors with addiction treatment, and educate them about preventing another overdose.

At a public hearing yesterday at the Dept. of Health, doctors, dentists, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurses voiced their opposition to the department's proposed regulations governing the prescribing of opioids. The new rules would require prescribers to sign a fairly lengthy agreement with patients, alerting them to the risks of taking prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, and agreeing to certain kinds of monitoring. Many health care providers feel these agreements aren't necessary and that, in fact, they're patronizing.

What do you think?

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials are considering new regulations governing how health care providers prescribe painkillers. So far this year, 212 Rhode Islanders have died from accidental drug overdoses, most involving opioids, according to the health department.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), has introduced legislation that's designed to provide some incentives and resources for states to develop more addiction treatment and prevention programs. It's called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014, and here are a few of its provisions, according to a news release from the Senator's office:

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island, the Miriam, and Newport Hospitals will be handing out overdose prevention kits to patients at risk. The kits are just one piece of a larger program designed to combat opioid overdose deaths.

The hospitals will distribute overdose kits to patients who have been brought to their emergency rooms because of an overdose. That kit will include Narcan – a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose – in the form of a nasal spray.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s annual Rally for Recovery takes place Saturday afternoon at Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence.

This year marks Rhode Island’s 11th annual Rally for Recovery. If last year’s event is any indication, thousands of attendees are expected for an afternoon of live music, speakers, and a candlelight processional toward the statehouse. The rally highlights the stories of people in recovery from the disease of addiction and remembers those who have died from the disease.

Local efforts to prevent drug overdose deaths could get a boost, if Congress passes new legislation to expand funding to such programs.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a bill that would make funding available to community organizations and public health agencies to buy and distribute naloxone, or Narcan. That’s a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose on prescription painkillers or heroin.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

More Rhode Island babies are being born dependent on the opioid drugs their pregnant mothers were taking. Their condition, called neonatal abstinence syndrome, sometimes requires hospital stays and powerful medications. In the second of our two-part series, the story of a newborn going through withdrawal and a young mother trying to make a new life for him in recovery. (You can listen to part one of our series here.)

Visiting baby Jonathan
“Where’s everybody headed?”