Nation’s first state-regulated overdose prevention center to open in R.I. this summer

PROVIDENCE – Project Weber/RENEW and its partner VICTA announced they have secured a location next to Rhode Island Hospital’s campus in Providence for the nation’s first state-regulated overdose prevention center.

The center, which was approved by the Providence City Council, will be located at 45 Willard Ave. The 20,500-square-foot space will allow for delivery of comprehensive medical, clinical and social support services. Project Weber/RENEW will relocate its operations, currently located at 640 Broad St., to this location.

The center is scheduled to open this summer and the proximity to the hospital campus is meant to allow for easier medical integration.

“In 2022, Rhode Island lost 434 lives to the overdose epidemic. This overdose prevention center is a pivotal element in the state’s comprehensive efforts to combat this crisis,” said Colleen Daley Ndoye, executive director of Project Weber/RENEW. “It’s imperative to take decisive action to save lives.”

- Advertisement -

At the center, which is also known as a safe consumption site or harm reduction center, people will be able to safely use pre-obtained substances under the supervision of trained professionals. The staff will make sure each person has the opportunity to test drugs for fentanyl and other substances. Staff will also be readily available to prevent or reverse an overdose, which can be quickly reversed when spotted early.

Other services available at overdose prevention centers include access to basic needs such as food, water and hygiene products; safer use supplies and Narcan/naloxone; case management services; HIV and hepatitis C testing and linkage to care; housing support; peer recovery coaching; and support groups, among others. The new location will also include laundry and showers, according to a news release.

VICTA, an organization providing integrated behavioral health and medical services, will have medical providers, nurses and counselors on-site to provide immediate services when someone is ready for treatment.

“We know that motivation can be fleeting, and that recovery is not linear; we are committed to helping people stay as healthy as possible through every stage in their process,” said VICTA Chief Operating Officer Lisa Peterson.

The overdose center is enabled through legislation that was passed by the General Assembly in 2021. The legislation expires in March 2026, meaning the facility must be opened, operating and evaluated by then. The center is supported by opioid settlement funds designated for Rhode Island and administered by the Executive Office for Health and Human Services.

The R.I. Department of Health will regulate the overdose prevention center and an evaluation will be conducted by The People, Place & Health Collective at Brown University’s School of Public Health to measure the program’s individual and community outcomes.

The center’s staff will be provided by Project Weber/RENEW and VICTA and include experts with lived experience with substance use and recovery, such as peer recovery specialists, counselors and prescribers who can initiate medication for substance use disorders. Project Weber/RENEW Deputy Director Ashley Perry and Overdose Prevention Program Director Dennis Bailer, both people with lived experience, will be the overall co-directors of the space, according to the release.

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com