R.I. receives $2.2M to fight opioid epidemic

PROVIDENCE – Approximately $2.2 million in federal funding has been awarded to the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to use to stem the opioid epidemic, the state’s congressional delegation said Friday.

There were more than 326 drug-overdose deaths in the state last year and 290 deaths in 2015, according to the state Department of Health.

“We have lost more than 1,200 lives to drug overdoses in the last five years. Every single one of those deaths was preventable. Addiction is a disease, but recovery is absolutely possible,” Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, DOH director, said in a statement.

The federal funding will increase access to lifesaving treatment and expand addiction prevention efforts, with the goal of reducing the growing number of prescription drug and opioid overdose-related deaths in Rhode Island.

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The funding is from $485 million in grants nationwide authorized by Congress last year in the 21st Century Cures Act and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“From Burrillville to Westerly, I have heard from countless Rhode Islanders whose lives and communities have been turned upside down by the opioid addiction crisis … This money will be put to good use in Rhode Island to address this public health crisis we’re facing,” U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said.

In July, Obama signed into law Whitehouse’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which established policies to prevent and treat addiction to opioid drugs, including programs to increase education on drug use, to expand medication-assisted treatment, to improve prescription drug monitoring programs, to support those in recovery and to promote state responses to the opioid crisis.

Lori Stabile is the PBN Web Editor.