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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?”
The first recovery center in the state’s Adult Correctional Institute is now open. The Anchor Recovery Drydock is in the women’s facility and will provide female inmates with treatment inside the ACI and resources for when they get out. The Providence Center’s CEO Dale Klatzker said having a recovery support network is key to staying sober and out of prison.
“All the treatment in the world isn’t going to make a difference if you aren’t also able to sustain your sobriety,” said Klatzker. “If you’re in an environment where all the pressures are on you or to use and abuse drugs.”