rhode island department of health

grifo via Creative Commons License

The Rhode Island Department of Health did a comprehensive analysis to figure out which drinking water sources are most vulnerable to climate change to help water suppliers plan for the future. Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza sat down with the June Swallow, chief of the Office of Drinking Water Quality at the state health department. She oversees the project called SafeWater Rhode Island

AAPCC

This week, officials from the state's health and human services agency are testifying at the Statehouse about proposed budgets for their departments. Some of the potential budget cuts, they say, seem manageable, but others they're hoping might be reversed or reduced.

Take Rhode Island’s poison control center, for example.

Rhode Island shares a poison control center with Massachusetts. It’s a toll-free number plus a staff of experts who can provide medical advice for people who suspect poisoning.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Natural disasters and extreme weather events cause great physical damage, but they can also take a toll on mental health. That’s the topic the state Department of Health and the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council will explore this week at workshops they are co-sponsoring.

The workshops are tailored for mental health practitioners, health department employees, and the general public.

Rhode Island Department of Health

Dr. Michael Fine has led the state’s department of health since 2001. Friday marks his last day at the agency. 

He came to our studios this week to look back on his accomplishments, and offer some advice to his successor, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. Fine told us that, as he leaves office, Rhode Islanders are not as healthy as they could be. But despite the challenges people face, there’s progress to be proud of.

  

Office of Gov. Gina Raimondo

Gov. Gina Raimondo has nominated a new leader for the state Dept. of Health.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott is currently Consultant Medical Director for the state health department’s division of infectious diseases, focusing on HIV and AIDS, viral hepatitis, and other infections. She’s a board-certified specialist in infectious disease in both children and adults. Alexander-Scott is also on the faculty of Brown University’s medical school. She studied medicine at the State University of New York Upstate Medical School and received a Masters in Public Health from Brown.

James Volk / CDC

Three strains of meningococcal bacteria - the critters that can cause meningitis - circulate and cause disease in the U.S. Until recently, we only had vaccines to protect against two of them. But in October 2014, the FDA approved a new vaccine for the strain known as serogroup B; on January 23rd, the agency approved a second vaccine for serogroup B, this one requiring just two doses, rather than three.

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.

Hospitals have gotten most of the attention when it comes to Ebola preparedness. But at a recent hearing for state lawmakers, questions were raised about the readiness of community-based health care providers to deal with the threat. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials have unveiled the state’s Ebola emergency response plan. The plan spells out the steps state agencies will take to handle potential cases.

The Rhode Island health department says it’s conducting exercises with hospitals to test their readiness for Ebola patients.

In a weekly update to reporters, state health officials say there are no cases of Ebola in Rhode Island, although they have investigated – and ruled out – "a number of" possible cases since August.

The Rhode Island Department of Health says it’s currently monitoring several recent arrivals from West Africa to guard against Ebola. But some members of the West African community want the health department to do more.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A child from Rhode Island has died from a combination of infections, including enterovirus D68, or EV-D68. It’s one of the first known deaths with some kind of link to EV-D68. What role the respiratory virus played in the child’s death is still unclear.

Tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 27) is the 29th annual AIDS Walk for Life, which begins at 10 am at the statehouse. Organizers (AIDS Project RI) are offering free, rapid HIV tests on site.

The event happens against the backdrop of news this week of lower awareness among gay men of HIV screening and treatment recommendations.

From Kaiser Health News:

Rhode Island’s first case of enterovirus D68 has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is responsible for some hospitalizations, but so far no deaths.

Rhode Island’s first case of the respiratory virus has been confirmed in an adult, who was recently hospitalized but has been discharged. It’s already been confirmed in neighboring states. Rhode Island sent a batch of specimens to the CDC for testing, and this is the first to come back positive.

Pages