The Rhode Island Foundation announced a $250,000 grant to purchase thousands of Narcan opioid overdose prevention kits for community-based recovery and harm reduction organizations across the state. A record 384 Rhode Islanders died of a drug overdose last year, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).
The grant comes at a time when naloxone (also known as Narcan) supplies are seriously depleted. Drug overdose deaths increased 25 percent last year compared to 2019, according to RIDOH, and preliminary data indicate that 2021 could be even worse. Additionally, the street drug supply is increasingly lethal due to the presence of the very strong opioid, fentanyl. The number of people at risk for opioid overdose is greater than ever, according to RIDOH, and the funding will provide about a two-month supply of the lifesaving emergency antidote.
The grant to the University of Rhode Island will enable the Community First Responder Program (CFRP) at its College of Pharmacy to purchase approximately 3,000 Narcan kits for distribution to community-based recovery and harm reduction organizations.
Narcan kits are routinely carried by law enforcement and emergency medical personnel as well as mobile outreach workers from community-based recovery and harm reduction organizations. These organizations use weekly data from RIDOH to deploy their mobile outreach teams to overdose hotspots throughout Rhode Island and connect those at risk to harm reduction supplies, basic needs, treatment and recovery services as needed. The Narcan kits come with two doses of naloxone nasal spray that can be dispensed directly into the nostrils of someone who is overdosing.
According to RIDOH, three out of every four overdose deaths in 2020 involved fentanyl, which is often found in counterfeit pills being illicitly sold as oxycodone, Adderall or benzodiazepines. These counterfeit pills are even more lethal when crushed and snorted. Fentanyl can also be present in powders such as heroin, cocaine and other drugs.
The funding for the Foundation’s grant comes in part from the Behavioral Health Fund, which was created with funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.
Resources for People Who Use Drugs and Their Loved Ones
- Call Rhode Island’s 24/7 Buprenorphine Hotline, 401-606-5456, for help if you or someone you care about is experiencing opioid withdrawal. Callers can speak with a healthcare provider, learn about Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) options, and make a plan for treatment and recovery support.
- Call BH Link, 401-414-LINK (5465), for immediate assistance with a mental health or substance use crisis. People can also visit BH Link’s drop-in center at 975 Waterman Ave. in East Providence. English and Spanish-speaking counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to offer support and connect callers to local resources.