Spike in overdoses prompts stepped up reporting

By Tessa Roy
Posted 4/4/17

By TESSA ROY Governor Gina Raimondo said Monday that there is no silver bullet" in the fight against the overdose crisis. "It's not an exaggeration to say this is a crisis. The overdose epidemic is taking our friends and family from us in every single"

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Spike in overdoses prompts stepped up reporting

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Governor Gina Raimondo said Monday that there is “no silver bullet” in the fight against the overdose crisis.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say this is a crisis. The overdose epidemic is taking our friends and family from us in every single community across Rhode Island, not to mention the rest of New England. And I’m proud that, in Rhode Island, we’re taking action,” she said in a statement after speaking about the issue at the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues event on Monday. “We’re collaborating with other states to share data so we can effectively monitor prescription drug purchases, and we’re aligning our public safety efforts to cut down on the illegal drug trade. There’s no silver bullet in this fight; we all have to work together to save lives.”

The governor’s remarks come on the heels of an alarming spike in drug overdose reports as seen at Kent Hospital, which prompted local and state leaders to convene to discuss courses of action. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian; Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health; Michael Dacey, President and COO of Kent Hospital; Colonel Ann Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety; Rebecca Boss, Acting Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals; and General Assembly members representing Kent County met for a press conference on Thursday at the hospital.

Alexander-Scott said the Kent area saw 16 overdoses between March 24 and March 27, 11 of which were cared for at Kent Hospital, and according to Dacey, most of which were from heroin.

“Based on hospitals that are reporting overdose information to the Department of Health, we would have expected this number to be closer to 5 over this period of time,” Alexander-Scott said.

Alexander-Scott said the majority of the 16 overdoses were non fatal, but was unable to provide more specifics due to patient privacy.

Information on these numbers was gathered from the 48-hour reporting system, under which all hospitals are required to report overdoses they treat within 48 hours of an incident, Alexander-Scott said. She added that the Department of Health has met with hospitals to assist them in troubleshooting the system, and that the next step toward enforcing the policy would be formally notifying hospitals that are noncompliant.

Alexander-Scott called 48 hour reporting a “vital tool” that helps the Department of Health quickly mobilize responses to “overdose clusters” like the one seen between March 24 and 27. She also pointed out resources available to those struggling with drug use, including the 401-942-STOP hotline, preventoverdoseri.org, peer recovery programs, and RI Centers of Excellence treatment centers that are part of Governor Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task force.

Though efforts like the 48-hour reporting system and collaborations between law enforcement, cities, health care providers, and more have prevented the numbers from being a “tremendous amount worse,” opioid overdoses are still a pressing issue, said Dacey.

“In the 25 years I’ve been practicing intensive care medicine, I have not seen something so serious and so significant, so it’s something that we really have to work on,” he said.

Assumpico agreed that the opioid overdose problem was prevalent. State Police are monitoring highways, working with local departments to identify “problem areas,” and will “keep working hard” to address it in various ways, she said.

“We’re in the trenches and we’re seeing this a lot,” she said.

Last year, Assumpico said, State Police arrested 125 people for drug related incidents and seized approximately 17 kilos of heroin, 34 kilos of cocaine, numerous other drugs, and more than 30 firearms. The State Police also purchased 1,000 units of lifesaving opioid antidote Narcan (naloxone) that were given to local police departments, sheriffs, and capitol police, she added.

Boss said that ensuring the availability of naloxone, plus spreading awareness of treatment options is paramount to saving lives, adding the state currently has 216 trained peer recovery coaches that can help.

“We must all continue to make sure those in our state who are dealing with opioid use disorders know that addiction is a disease, treatment is available and effective, and that recovery is possible,” she said. “At moments when people are most at risk, they need to know that we have peers who have been in their shoes and who can help.”

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