After an alarming new report highlighted a crisis already well-known to state and law enforcement officials, victims, and their families, Senator Reed and Governor Gina Raimondo convened a roundtable meeting with state health officials and Rhode Island State Police Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell to discuss the growing epidemic of drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island, and talk about what can be done about it.
The Trust for America’s Health, together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued their report, “The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report,” in June 2015, using a three-year average of federal injury data. The report found that Rhode Island has the 7th-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, exceeding the cause-of-death rates for car accidents, murder, and suicide. Rhode Island’s overdose deaths are the highest in New England, at a rate of 19.4 per 100,000 people. The national average is 13.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
Reed and Raimondo gathered health officials including Maria Montanaro, Director of the state Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, together with State Police Colonel O’Donnell to discuss what state offices together with law enforcement are doing to cope with this overdose crisis. The group also discussed how prevention and education efforts, as well as addressing the root causes of addiction, can help alleviate the epidemic.
Following the meeting, Senator Reed flew to Washington to introduce his Overdose Prevention Act, aimed at saving lives by expanding access to the drug overdose antidote naloxone, and improving prevention programs and first responder training.