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Rise Together: Building a stronger & more equitable Rhode Island - The Raimondo Administration

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Governor Raimondo Signs Executive Order on Overdose Prevention

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo today signed an Executive Order calling for a wide range of immediate actions and initiatives in Rhode Island to prevent opioid overdoses and save lives.

The Executive Order, which was signed at a meeting of the Governor's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, enhances the existing strategies of the Task Force's Action Plan in the areas of prevention, treatment, rescue and recovery.

"Building on our existing plan, this Executive Order will bring together healthcare facilities, state agencies, law enforcement personnel, healthcare providers, families and many others around specific, targeted interventions that will save lives," said Governor Raimondo. "The opioid overdose crisis is evolving, both in Rhode Island and across the country. We are continually reevaluating our approach so that we can keep this epidemic from claiming any more of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and neighbors and friends."

The Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force Meeting was also attended by Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Richard Baum.

"The opioid epidemic is devastating families here in Rhode Island and across the country," Richard Baum, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, said. "It's a national crisis that shows up as a local problem in our hospitals, schools, jails, and neighborhoods, so we need local strategies to solve it. Under Governor Raimondo's leadership, that's exactly what Rhode Island is doing."

The actions in the Executive Order signed today must be completed by November 30, 2017. The actions include:

-Working with local law enforcement agencies to implement pre-arrest diversion programs through which health counselors will assist police officers in handling individuals with substance-use disorder;

-Planning a multi-media education campaign to help parents, youth, and families communicate about addiction and the dangers of opioid use;

-Launching a Family Task Force comprised of the family members of people who have died of drug overdoses, or who are living with opioid-use disorder;

-Hiring five nurse case managers to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in high-risk communities and certifying additional Centers of Excellence to expand access to MAT;

-Working with all hospitals throughout the state to qualify for levels of care designations that ensure adoption of best practices for treating overdose and opioid-use disorder;

-Piloting and analyzing programs that encourage disposal of excess opioids to reduce the risk of misuse or diversion; and

-Proposing comprehensive harm reduction aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with intravenous drug use.

The Executive Order signed today comes after Governor Raimondo signed an initial Executive Order in August 2015 to create the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

"This Executive Order will help us implement our Action Plan this year as effectively as possible to prevent overdoses and save lives," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "We know that addiction is a disease, but every single overdose death in Rhode Island is absolutely preventable because recovery is possible. We must do everything we can to expand access to treatment and get prevention messaging into every corner of the state."

"Everyone at BHDDH is eager to begin work on the new initiatives outlined in this Executive Order," said Rebecca Boss, the Director of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. "These initiatives and activities help expand and emphasize the importance of prevention and intervention, community and family engagement, and end the stigma surrounding substance use disorders. The Governor's Action Plan was designed to be responsive and flexible to the nature of this epidemic, and the new Executive Order builds upon the solid foundation we have created by requiring us to further increase our efforts to save the lives of Rhode Islanders."

In 2016, 336 Rhode Islanders died of drug overdoses, up from 290 in 2015. This increase in overdose deaths is largely associated with increased use of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths accounted for 57% of all overdose deaths in 2016, up from 47% in 2015. This trend in Rhode Island mirrors the regional trend and trends in many states nationally. Additional data is available at http://preventoverdoseri.org/.

Key activities in the Action Plan of the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force include: tightening Rhode Island's prescribing regulations for opioids when they are used to treat acute pain; getting naloxone into every community in Rhode Island; expanding access to treatment for opioid-use disorder; connecting Rhode Islanders who have overdosed to peer recovery coaches; and launching a helpline (401-942-STOP) for people who need assistance.

Rhode Islanders can be connected to licensed counselors in English or Spanish by calling 401-942-STOP, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.