R.I. to receive $2.1 million in federal funding for programs to combat opioids

Officials from Westerly, Richmond, Hopkinton and Charlestown were among a group of more than 300 municipal officials, first responders, and treatment and recovery specialists across the state who tool part in the third annual Community Overdose Engagement Summit meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting, convened by the governor's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, highlighted local overdose response plans developed by 34 Rhode Island municipalities and supported by state grant funding.

Gov. Gina Raimondo said, “Some of the most effective strategies in this fight have come from the front lines — from first responders, harm reduction workers and behavioral health specialists in individual communities."

Following a near decade-long increase in the number of overdoses in the state, Rhode Island has started to see a reduction. The number of overdoses fell by 6.5% over the past two years, from 336 total overdoses in 2016 to 314 in 2018. Raimondo and state Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander Scott attributed the results to implementation of several local efforts.

As an example, the the police in Richmond and Hopkinton partnered with the Rhode Island State Police on the Heroin-Opioid Prevention Effort Initiative to learn techniques on post-overdose outreach.

Michelle McKenzie, director of overdose prevention and naloxone intervention at The Miriam Hospital, said these efforts and data collections will remain crucial to combating the opioid epidemic. “The overdose crisis is a local crisis,” she said. “Communities need data and support to implement programs we know can prevent overdoses and save lives in the neighborhoods we serve every day.”

Cities and towns started working on local overdose prevention and response plans in 2017 at the first summit meeting, with 25 municipalities receiving grant funding of up to $5,000. Westerly, Hopkinton, Charlestown and Richmond received grants during the first round of funding.

— Sun staff

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