Supervised Injection Facilities to Mitigate Rhode Island’s Overdose Crisis

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kitchen floor ODjpg

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Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States, had 336 overdose-related deaths in 2016, double the number of deaths in 2010. Since 2011, illicit drug overdose deaths increased 250% with the crisis expanding to include a 15-fold increase in fentanyl-related deaths.

In August 2015, Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order, directing the Department of Health and Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to co-convene an Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force with community and stakeholder participation. The Task Force developed an action plan aiming to reduce overdose deaths by one third by 2018.

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Source: Rhode Island Department of Health

Because the number of deaths continued to climb, a second executive order was signed in July 2017, calling for community and school-based prevention education, and a directive to explore “a comprehensive harm reduction strategy for intravenous drug users to decrease risk of overdose, infection, and assault.”  

Harm reduction strategies include distribution of clean needles, outreach, peer support, naloxone training, substitution therapy, and supervised injection facilities.  These approaches mitigate the adverse effects of high-risk behaviors associated with drug use by reducing stigma, and legal and social barriers to care.

Vancouver SIF

Source: The Stranger

Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) are an effective public health strategy because their impact is multi-faceted and based in harm reduction. SIFs reduce death from overdose, increase access to services for healthcare and recovery, and improve community safety.

With good results in Canada and campaigns for SIFs in New York and other US locations, Rhode Island is not alone in this crisis. Supervised injection facilities can help stem the exponential increase in deaths and unbearable toll this overdose crisis is taking on individuals, families, and the state.  It is crucial that the Overdose Task Force and Governor Raimondo support local implementation of this evidence-based life-saving strategy.

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