CDC: Rhode Island among five states showing decline in opioid emergency room visits

The CDC reports Rhode Island is one of five states in the nation showing a decline in opioid-related emergency room visits over the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2017. /BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/DHIRAJ SINGH
The CDC reports Rhode Island is one of five states in the nation showing a decline in opioid-related emergency room visits in the third quarter of 2017 compared with the third quarter of 2016. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/DHIRAJ SINGH

PROVIDENCE – A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows Rhode Island is one of the five states in the United States that saw a decrease in the number of opioid overdose-related emergency room visits in the third quarter of 2017 compared with that period in 2016.

The state shares the distinction of a decrease, 0.18 percent, with Massachusetts (-0.62 percent), New Hampshire (-7.09 percent), Kentucky (-15.04 percent) and West Virginia (-5.28 percent). The CDC only considers changes of greater than 10 percent statistically significant, meaning that Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and West Virginia could actually have had increases that sampling error masks.

Overall, emergency department visits (reported by 52 jurisdictions in 45 states) for suspected opioid overdoses increased 30 percent in the U.S. from July 2016 through September 2017, according to the CDC’s latest Vital Signs report.

Opioid overdoses increased for men and women, all age groups, and all regions, but varied by state, with rural/urban differences.

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“We are cautiously optimistic about the numbers in the CDC report,” said Joseph Wendelken, public information officer for the R.I. Department of Health. “There still remains an enormous amount of work to do, but the fact that Rhode Island saw this slight decrease at a time when other states are still seeing significant increases indicates that we are starting to get some traction with our interventions. These interventions include making sure that people who are treated in an emergency department for an overdose leave with a path to treatment and a comprehensive plan for support, and getting treatment to people who are incarcerated, if they need it. This second initiative has led to a 61 percent decrease in post-incarceration overdose deaths in Rhode Island.”

News of an overall decline in Rhode Island opioid deaths was reported in December by the R.I. Department of Health, when the state agency noted a 9 percent drop in the number of opioid overdoses in the first seven months of 2017.

In February, local health care clinicians and state officials attributed the decline to the state’s robust, multi-faceted approach to the addiction epidemic.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer.

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