Whitehouse tours CODAC center
to view opioid epidemic impact

LINDA HURLEY, president and CEO of CODAC Behavioral Healthcare, welcomes Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., to the organization’s Providence facility and begins a guided tour June 8. / COURTESY PETER SOUCY, JH COMMUNICATIONS

PROVIDENCE – While Rhode Island has made significant headway in addressing the opioid crisis, health officials throughout the state say more work is needed after a May spike in overdoses, prompting Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., to visit to CODAC Behavioral Healthcare’s Huntington Avenue facility June 11 to see what help the government might provide for coping with the epidemic.

According to the R.I. Department of Health, hospitals had been reporting about 29 overdoses a week in 2018, including fatal and nonfatal incidents. From May 21-27, there were 44 overdoses in Rhode Island.

During his visit, Whitehouse learned the epidemic is keeping the facility, which treats people regardless of their insurance status, very busy.

“In the midst of the overdose epidemic, we have reached capacity in this building. We service over 1,000 Providence residents for opioid use disorder who are coming here because we also evaluate and address their psychiatric and infectious disease conditions,” said Linda Hurley, president and CEO of CODAC Behavioral Healthcare.

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Whitehouse has been part of a bipartisan group of senators who are introducing legislation to strengthen the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill the senator co-authored and successfully passed in the Senate in 2016. If Congress passes the reformed bill, it would increase funding authorization by $6 billion to help stem the tide against the opioid crisis.

“The opioid addiction crisis has hit close to home for far too many Rhode Island families. I fought to pass my bipartisan, comprehensive addiction legislation and for funding to go along with it, so those on the front lines would have the resources to help more people on to a path to recovery and to turn this crisis around,” Whitehouse said.

Referred to as CARA 2.0, the bill would help patients receive access to recovery support services and increase the availability of lifesaving treatments that will directly benefit the recovery community in the Ocean State. Statistics suggest those funds will be needed to change the trajectory of overdoses across Rhode Island.

The overdose spike also inspired the health department to renew its outreach to curb overdoses, including the following points of information about the opioid epidemic and the state’s response:

  • If someone is using heroin or other opioids, they should assume they are also using the extremely lethal drug fentanyl.
  • Naloxone is available without a prescription at CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies. If someone you know is using drugs, you should have naloxone on hand.
  • If someone is using drugs, there is help available right now. If you pick up the phone and call (401) 942-STOP, there will be someone on the line to help you get on the road to recovery today. No one needs to struggle alone.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.