January 29, 2018

Whitehouse, U.S. Surgeon General Highlight Federal Overdose Prevention Law

Rhode Islanders share experiences with prevention and treatment strategies that serve as national model

Pawtucket, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse this morning hosted U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams for a discussion about the opioid addiction recovery programs that have made Rhode Island a national model in the field and influenced Whitehouse’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).  The roundtable meeting with state leaders, people in recovery, and addiction specialists was held at the Anchor Recovery Community Center in Pawtucket.  The group shared with Dr. Adams their experiences with strategies for addressing the crisis that have worked in Rhode Island and can serve as a model for other states. 

“It is an honor to have Dr. Adams here to talk with Rhode Islanders on the front lines of the opioid addiction epidemic who are steadily working to turn the tide and save lives,” said Whitehouse.  “Dr. Adams has made addressing the overdose crisis a high priority, and efforts by state leaders and our local recovery community can be a model for other hard-hit areas across the country.  In a small, close-knit place like Rhode Island, just about everybody knows someone who has been touched by opioid addiction.  While there are glimmers of hope that suggest we are making progress, we need to keep up the pressure on this epidemic and continue supporting those on the long, noble path of recovery.”

Dr. Adams has prioritized addressing the opioid epidemic as the nation’s top public health advocate.

“I’m blown away by the collaboration and plan that you’ve put in place in Rhode Island,” said Dr. Adams.  “It makes me optimistic that we can all come together to solve this crisis.”

Whitehouse is a lead author of CARA, sweeping bipartisan legislation designed to help save lives and curb the opioid epidemic, which was signed into law in 2016.  While writing the law, Whitehouse met with members of the addiction community from across Rhode Island and incorporated their feedback into the legislation.  CARA established a range of federal policies, including programs to increase education on drug use, expand medication-assisted treatment, improve prescription drug monitoring programs, and promote comprehensive state responses to the opioid crisis. 

“Senator Whitehouse has championed a national response to drug addiction through passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, and I was honored to join him and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams to discuss the opioid crisis,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “Thanks to the tireless work of first responders, state agencies, and community providers, Rhode Island has demonstrated its commitment to help those struggling with addiction get on the road to recovery.  I’m pleased Dr. Adams is observing our state’s efforts firsthand, and I look forward to our continued state and federal partnership to combat this public health emergency.”

As a result of CARA, Rhode Island has received $3 million over three years to create Centers of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorders.  The Centers provide rapid access to treatment and comprehensive services for people struggling with opioid addiction.  Ten of these centers, which are a cornerstone of the Governor’s Overdose Prevention Action Plan, have opened in Rhode Island since September 2016.

“It is a privilege to have U.S. Surgeon General Adams visit Rhode Island and speak with members of Governor Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force,” said Rhode Island Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane. “Surgeon General Adams shares our mission: save lives and bring our loved ones home healthier and better positioned to be successful in the community.  I am glad we are able to talk to him about the challenges we’ve faced – and also where we are seeing progress.”

In 2016, 336 Rhode Islanders died of accidental drug overdoses, according to the Department of Health.  The state saw an 8 percent decrease in opioid overdose deaths in the first eight months of 2017, compared to the same period the previous year.

“It is heartening to have Dr. Adams come to Rhode Island and see the work that is being done day in and day out, as we fight the opioid crisis,” said Director Rebecca Boss, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals.  “Our work is having an effect and while we still have a long way to go, we are hopeful that we have the right tools in place using specific, evidence-based strategies in the areas of prevention, rescue, treatment and recovery.  Having the encouragement of the United States Surgeon General is affirming to all of us working in the field of substance use disorders and we will continue with our focus of saving lives.”

While in Rhode Island, Dr. Adams attended several other meetings on health care, including a discussion with the state’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

“It is an honor for The Providence Center to have the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams visit Anchor Recovery Community Center in Pawtucket,” said Deborah O’Brien, President of The Providence Center.  “Anchor, its outreach programs Anchor ED and Anchor More, and our other community diversion programs are the product of strong partnerships and collaboration with our state and local communities.  A majority of the funding utilized to operate these innovative programs has been made possible by the federal government through the Substance Abuse Block Grant and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  We are grateful for the opportunity to show Dr. Adams how those funds have saved lives and share individual stories of hope, success and recovery from the disease of addiction.”


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921