"Addiction and opioid abuse are public health priorities that affect our families, communities, and economy, and it's time for a statewide strategy to address them," said Raimondo. "We are committed to working collaboratively with our dedicated partners across the state to tackle this issue and keep our families and communities safe. We must come together to make sure everyone has the opportunity to make it in Rhode Island."
Last year in Rhode Island, 239 people died of accidental drug overdose, and 94 people have already died this year, according to provisional data. Despite promising efforts by state and community partners to combat opioid abuse, Rhode Island has seen slow but steady increases in accidental drug overdose deaths, which rose three percent in the last year.
Raimondo appointed Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Director Maria Montanaro as co-chairs of the task force, pointing to the need for additional collaboration between the state agencies to address this public health crisis. The task force will develop an action plan to address Rhode Island's overdose crisis and hold monthly public meetings.
"This problem is very real and, as the numbers indicate, it is not going away," said Alexander-Scott. "I am thankful to Governor Raimondo for putting together this task force, and I look forward to working as co-chair to address the disease of addiction, reduce overdose deaths, and keep more Rhode Islanders safe and healthy."
"Governor Raimondo has shown great vision and leadership in creating an Executive Order asking committed stakeholders to serve on this task force and create an action plan to combat this crisis," said Montanaro. "I am pleased to serve as co-chair and am confident that working together we will deliver a robust and highly responsive plan."
"Lifelong access to recovery support for the disease of addiction is critical-just as it is for other chronic, long-term illnesses," said Tom Joyce, Associate Director of Recovery Support Services for the Providence Center and Anchor Recovery Community Centers. "Recovery is possible, and Rhode Island has a uniquely strong recovery community. We look forward to collaborating with the Governor's new task force to address our addiction and overdose crisis."
A team of public health experts at Brown University, the Miriam Hospital and Johns Hopkins University has received funding from CVS Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island to advise the task force and assist in developing recommendations.
A current list of task force members follows:
Thomas Davis, CVS
Representative David Bennett, House of Representatives
Senator Joshua Miller, Senate
Taino Palermo, Commission on Health Equity and Advocacy
Susan Jacobsen, Director Health Equity Initiatives, Thundermist Health Equity Zones Initiative
Dr. Gary Bubly, Emergency Department
Jane Hayward, Health Center Association
Dr. Matthew Collins, BCBS
James McDonald, RI Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline
Peter Ragosta, RI Board of Pharmacy
Donna Policastro, RI Nurses Association
Dr. Robert Bartro, RI Dental Association
Dr. Peter Karczmar, RI Medical Society
Mike Rizzi, CODAC, Harm Reduction Representative
Nancy DiNuccio, Substance Abuse Prevention Association
Ariel Engleman, Drug Overdose, Prevention and Rescue Coalition
David Spencer, Drug and Alcohol Treatment Association
Michelle McKenzie, RICARES
Tommy Joyce, The Providence Center & Recovery Coach Representative
Dr. Jef Bratberg, URI, Pharmacy Practice & Academia/Public Health Researcher
Brian Sullivan, Police Chiefs Association
Dr. Kathleen Hittner, OHIC
Dr. Deidre Gifford, Medicaid
Maria Montanaro, MSW BHDDH
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD DOH
Dr. Ken Wagner, RIDE
Jamia McDonald, EOHHS Chief Strategy for DCYF
Jason Rhodes, DOH Emergency Management Services
Ed D'Arezzo, DOH Medical Examiner Office
A.T. Wall, DOC
Colonel Steven O'Donnell, RISP
Peter Kilmartin, Attorney General