PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — On behalf of the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, state leaders recently recognized 25 cities and towns, including Portsmouth, for leadership in developing comprehensive overdose prevention response plans.
Portsmouth received an Overdose Leadership Designation at the second statewide Community Overdose Engagement Summit to collaboratively address the overdose epidemic. The summit served to assist municipalities in developing local overdose response plans.
“Over the six months since we were last here, Rhode Island has had incredible momentum in implementing innovative programs to combat this overdose crisis,” said Governor Gina Raimondo.
“Some of the best ideas come from the people with their boots on the ground in our communities. I congratulate the cities and towns recognized today for their leadership in tackling this crisis. When we work together, we can save lives.”
“The overdose crisis is destroying lives and tearing families apart in all corners of the state,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane. “Turning things around in Rhode Island means facing our challenges and choices head on and committing to action. That’s why I am so pleased to see 25 different communities from across our state develop comprehensive overdose prevention response plans.”
Summit participants included municipal leaders, public health practitioners, healthcare providers, pharmacists, behavioral health counselors, law enforcement personnel and other first responders, people in the recovery and treatment communities, prevention coalition members, family and youth substance use prevention organization members, and representatives from Rhode Island Centers of Excellence and RIDOH’s Health Equity Zones (HEZs).
“Thanks to Jonathan Goyer’s success story of recovery, we know that the opposite of addiction is connectedness,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. “This Community Overdose Engagement Summit built on the connections made during our first convening in December and provided the opportunity for a wide range of partners to share the innovative approaches they have developed to prevent and respond to overdoses in their communities.
“We are fulfilling this year’s theme for the Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force that is all about our Communities Coming Together, because everyone plays a role in changing perceptions about addiction to support each other, regardless of the zip code we’re from.”
“The incredible turnout for today’s Summit shows that leaders across the State are committed to supporting community members struggling with substance use disorder,” said BHDDH Director Rebecca Boss. “To address Rhode Island’s overdose crisis, we must focus on prevention and rescue, and we must also help people gain access to treatment and the resources needed to be successful in recovery. The development of these comprehensive plans at the city and town level is a critical step in our collective efforts to prevent overdoses and save lives.”
At the first statewide Community Overdose Engagement Summit in December 2017, RIDOH and BHDDH challenged Rhode Island cities and towns to develop comprehensive overdose response plans based on the Governor’s statewide Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force Action Plan. RIDOH made grant funding of up to $5000 available to municipalities to assist them in completing these plans.
A video that highlights the innovative work of five Rhode Island municipalities that developed comprehensive overdose response plans is available at https://vimeo.com/274566500/536fef29cf.
Since March 2014, hospitals and emergency departments have been required to report any suspected opioid overdoses to RIDOH within 48 hours. These data have allowed RIDOH to look at overdose activity in each community on a weekly basis and identify data trends and abnormalities.
Through this data analysis, thresholds for local warnings were established and a system for alerting local leaders was developed. Rhode Island Overdose Action Area Response (ROAAR) public health advisories are sent to first responders and municipal leaders to alert them of an increase in overdose activity within a seven-day period.
In addition, when RIDOH observes an increase in a specific geographical area three times within a six-week period, RIDOH, BHDDH, and the Rhode Island Fusion Center hold a local Community Overdose Engagement meeting with those leaders to examine the community’s customized data, discuss their unique challenges, and form solutions.