Opioid overdose alert issued for 5 RI towns

EAST PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Health recorded an increase in opioid overdose activity, prompting the agency to place a region of the state on alert.

The Health Department published new data from their Opioid Overdose Integrated Surveillance System, which records emergency department (ED) visits and emergency medical services (EMS) runs for 10 regions across the state. The data covers non-fatal overdoses.

Courtesy: RI Department of Health

The alert covers Region 9, which surpassed the threshold of ED visits and matched it for EMS runs between March 6 and 12.

Region 9 includes East Greenwich, West Greenwich, Exeter, Richmond, and Hopkinton. The weekly threshold for the area is two, and they recorded fewer than 5 during the seven-day period.

Region 8 also met the threshold for ED visits. This region is comprised of Jamestown, Bristol, Warren, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, and Barrington.

The threshold for activity in each region can fluctuate weekly. The surveillance system is meant to alert first responders and organizations of an increase in opioid overdose activity and allows them to take additional measures, like providing naloxone to people at risk, the Health Department said.

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Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken told 12 News it’s still too early to tell what could have caused the spike in Region 9, but noted that fentanyl and counterfeit pills often pay a role in increased overdose activity.

Wendelken said this alert is a reminder that substance use disorder is still a public health crisis in Rhode Island.

It’s estimated that more than 400 people in the state died of an accidental drug overdose in 2021, which would be the most recorded in a single year.

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Courtesy: RI Department of Health

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