URI health care programs to collaborate on opioid outreach campaign

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Personnel from the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing and Cooperative Extension will collaborate and visit rural communities in Rhode Island in an outreach campaign about opioid substance abuse and overdosing.

The campaign, according to the university Thursday, will be funded via a $1 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The group will visit farmers markets, fairs, festivals and other events in the Ocean State to discuss opioid-related issues, offer information on obtaining naloxone – the nasal spray offered to individuals experiencing an overdose – and offer health counseling.

Additionally, the URI Mobile Health Unit will be at the South Kingstown Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May through October. URI said it the unit will have nurse practitioners staffed, and offer substance-abuse screenings, health checks, care referrals, HIV and Hepatitis C screenings, fentanyl test strips, wellness assessments and naloxone.

The team will also teach area residents how to recognize signs of an overdose and respond to them so community members can become “true first responders,” URI said.

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URI also said the grant will fund the development of online training programs, which includes six “short modules” for the public and URI staff, and four continuing-education programs “with credit hours for health care professionals.”

“Our focus will be on removing the stigma associated with opioid misuse,” said Deborah Sheely, URI associate director of Cooperative Extension, in a statement. “We’ll have a booth at these events with a private area where people can have confidential conversations, and we’ll have the right people there who are qualified to have those kinds of conversations.”

Anita Jacobson, URI clinical associate professor of pharmacy, said in a statement that if people are educated about how to recognize an overdose situation or if individuals are deep in substance abuse, “we can save lives.”

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.