Officials begin series of overdose discussions

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s top health officials held the first of six discussions Thursday on the recent overdose epidemic in the state, as they look for alternative ways to treat patients for pain.

According to the State Department of Health, so far this year there have been 142 overdose deaths, 250 people treated in emergency departments, and 1,047 cases in which Narcan was utilized.

Dr. Traci Green, a professor of epidemiology at Brown University, said treatment could be altered, with more exploration providing options other than opioid-based pain medication.

“That might be in some instances medical marijuana, in some instances it might be physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic,” she explained.

As Dr. Green reviews numbers and trends, she said part of the solution will come with reorganizing care.

“Emphasize education – how clinicians can talk to patients better, how they can use clinical tools that are evidence based that are out there,” she said.

Among those tools – a hotline of sorts for physicians, providing guidance when considering the best treatment to sometimes steer away from opioids. It also calls for working with people like Ian Knowles from Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts, who believes that in years past, those recovering from addiction would have never been invited to a discussion at the State House.

“The rise of the recovery movement has generated a new source and feeling of advocacy among those of us in the recovery community,” said Knowles.

Rhode Island Health Department Director Dr. Michael Fine said the resources are in place to make changes once the discussions come to a close – all that’s needed is for all health care providers to get on board.

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