As supply of Narcan dwindles, Rhode Island Foundation awards $250,000 grant to fill the gap until a permanent source of funding can be found
URI will use the grant to buy thousands of the life-saving Narcan kits for community-based recovery and harm reduction organizations in partnership with state Health Department.
The Rhode Island Foundation today 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).
“Narcan kits are a simple solution to a deadly problem. While our funding will save lives, it’s just a large, yet critically needed, ‘band aid’ until a sustainable funding source is put in place. The current shortage is a clear call for others to join with us and our partners to ensure Rhode Island has the resources to address this deadly health crisis as well as to confront the underlying causes of substance use disorder.”- Neil D. Steinberg, Foundation president and CEO
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.
“We are extremely grateful to the Rhode Island Foundation for providing critical funding for the purchase of lifesaving naloxone during an especially challenging time in our state. By bridging this gap, our trusted community partners can continue to get naloxone into the hands of Rhode Islanders most impacted by addiction and overdose, as well as their family members and friends. We all have a role to play to reduce overdose deaths and save lives,” said- Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, director of health
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.
“The nature of our previous funding restricted our naloxone distribution efforts to rural areas of Rhode Island. This grant will enable us to go wherever there is a need. When it comes to the drug overdose and addiction crisis, there are no borders,” said CFRP Program Director Anita Jacobson, PharmD.
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.
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.