R.I. Foundation gifts $250K to URI for purchase and distribution of Narcan kits

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation is gifting a $250,000 grant to the University of Rhode Island to purchase roughly 3,000 Narcan kits for distribution to community-based recovery and harm reduction organizations, the foundation said Wednesday.

The gift comes as the supply of Narcan in the state has been “seriously depleted,” the foundation said, with overdose deaths in the state increasing 25% year over year in 2020. Overdose deaths are also on pace to potentially rise even further in 2021.

Data from the R.I. Department of Health shows that there were a record 384 drug overdose deaths in 2020. In addition, three out of every four overdose deaths in the state in 2020 involved the deadly drug fentanyl.

“Narcan kits are a simple solution to a deadly problem. While our funding will save lives, it’s just a large, yet critically needed, ‘Band-Aid’ until a sustainable funding source is put in place,” stated Neil D. Steinberg, the foundation’s CEO and president. “The current shortage is a clear call for others to join with us and our partners to ensure Rhode Island has the resources to address this deadly health crisis as well as to confront the underlying causes of substance use disorder.”

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The grant will go to the University of Rhode Island’s Community First Responder Program in its College of Pharmacy. The program will distribute the kits to community organizations.

“The nature of our previous funding restricted our naloxone distribution efforts to rural areas of Rhode Island. This grant will enable us to go wherever there is a need. When it comes to the drug overdose and addiction crisis, there are no borders,” said CFRP Program Director Anita Jacobson.

The gift came partially from the foundation’s Behavioral Health Fund, which was created with funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

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