PROVIDENCE, R.I. \u2014 Preliminary data indicates that Rhode Island saw a significant increase in accidental drug overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the same period in years past, state officials announced Tuesday.\nAlthough data for January, February, and March of 2020 are still considered provisional, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) anticipates that between 93 and 95 people will have died of accidental drug overdoses during this period. This represents roughly a 22% increase in accidental drug overdose deaths compared to the same time period in 2019. (See data below.) This number of accidental overdose deaths would be the most for a quarter on record in Rhode Island.\n\n\nAlthough the factors driving this increase are still being investigated, one factor is the presence of extremely lethal synthetic opioids, such as\u00a0carfentanil, in Rhode Island. The number of overdoses involving more than one substance has also increased.\n\n\n\u201cIllicit drugs have always been dangerous, but right now they are more deadly than ever,\u201d said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH.\u00a0\u201cIf you do use drugs, do not use alone, and make sure that your friends and family have naloxone available. Steps like these can save a life and give someone an opportunity to take the first step on their own personal journey of recovery. There is hope for everyone because recovery is absolutely possible for everyone.\u201d\n\nDr. Alexander-Scott and Kathryn Power, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), are the co-chairs of Governor Gina M. Raimondo\u2019s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.\n\n\u201cThe COVID-19 crisis has made it more challenging for people with substance use disorder to stay connected to life-saving resources and support,\u201d said Kathryn Power, Director of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH). \u201cPolysubstance use, including the use of stimulants like methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack-cocaine, are also on the rise. It is even more critical to leverage the collaborative efforts of Governor Raimondo\u2019s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force to address this emerging trend.\u201d\n\nAfter peaking in 2016, Rhode Island\u2019s annual fatal drug overdose numbers have been trending downward modestly. In 2016, 336 people died of accidental drug overdoses. In 2019, 308 people died of accidental drug overdoses.\n\nThe Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force\u2019s\u00a02019-2021 Strategic Plan Update\u00a0focuses on the core strategies of prevention, rescue, treatment, and recovery, as well as cross-cutting areas of harm reduction and racial equity. The Task Force continues to meet monthly on the second Wednesday of each month and Zoom\u00a0meetings\u00a0are open to the public. Task Force\u00a0Work Groups\u00a0meet virtually on a monthly basis and always welcome new volunteers.\n\nHow can people get help?\nRhode Island\u2019s treatment and recovery resources are still available online, over the phone, or in-person to support people with substance use disorder.\n\n\n\n \tBH Link, Rhode Island\u2019s 24\/7 behavioral health\u00a0hotline, 401-414-LINK, connects callers to trained professionals who can provide confidential counseling, referrals, and support services.\n \tPeople can go to BH Link\u2019s drop-in center in-person to get connected to support at 975 Waterman Avenue in East Providence.\n \tPeople who are experiencing opioid withdrawal can connect with a healthcare provider over the phone by calling Rhode Island\u2019s Buprenorphine Hotline,401-606-5456. Callers can learn about Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) options and make a plan for continued treatment and recovery support through a\u00a0Rhode Island Center of Excellence.\u00a0Rhode Island Centers of Excellences\u00a0are specialty centers that use evidence-based practices and provide treatment and the coordination of care to individuals with moderate to severe opioid use disorder.\n \tFire stations in Providence, Newport, and Woonsocket are \u201cSafe Stations.\u201d This means that they are open every day to help people in crisis get connected to a peer recovery support specialist and treatment and recovery support services.\n \tMore information about drug overdose prevention is available at\u00a0preventoverdoseri.org.\u00a0This includes information about naloxone (sometimes called Narcan). This is a medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose. In Rhode Island, you can get naloxone at your local pharmacy without a prescription from a doctor. When you buy naloxone at a pharmacy, the pharmacist can show you how to use it.\n\n\nData\nRhode Island\u2019s accidental drug overdose death data from\u00a0January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020\u00a0should be finalized in the coming weeks, as toxicology results are still pending for some March cases.\n\nAccidental Overdose Deaths in Quarter One\n2020 \u2013 93 to 95 (provisional)\n2019 \u2013 77\n2018 \u2013 66\n2017 \u2013 89\n2016 \u2013 87\n2015 \u2013 81\n2014 \u2013 79\n\nTotal Accidental Overdose Deaths\n2020 \u2013 129 *\n2019 \u2013 308\n2018 \u2013 314\n2017 \u2013 324\n2016 \u2013 336\n2015 \u2013 290\n2014 \u2013 240\n\n* Because of the time lag in confirming drug overdose deaths, this number should not be used to do to-date comparisons.