When it comes to addressing an overdose effectively, timing and efficiency are key. Up until now, however, there has been no standardization of care when treating an overdose – a problem that Governor Gina Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force recently took on. In cooperation with hospitals and emergency departments across the state, they released the country’s first guidelines for treating someone living with an opiate addiction with a goal toward providing consistent and comprehensive care for those in need.
Said Governor Raimondo: “Ensuring that people who are living with the disease of addiction get the same high-quality care at hospitals and emergency departments throughout Rhode Island is essential to preventing overdoses and saving lives. My heart breaks for each and every person who has lost a loved one to this epidemic. We need to come together as families, as communities, and as a state to give people who are living with addictions the resources and support they need. Change is possible, healing is possible, and recovery is never out of reach.”
The guidelines from the governor’s office also provide a categorization system for all medical facilities in the state that treat people living with opiate addiction. Initially, all hospitals and emergency departments must meet the criteria for Level 3. Over time, as they develop their ability to care for this population, they can apply for a higher designation and follow-up evaluations.
For example, all Level 3 facilities – currently, all hospitals and ERs in RI – should be prepared to provide:
- Education on how to safely dispose of unwanted prescription painkillers and how to store them so they are protected from abuse
- Naloxone, an opiate overdose reversal medication, for all patients at risk of overdose
- Extensive and detailed discharge plan for all patients who are admitted due to opiate overdose
- Access to peer recovery support services
- Substance use disorder screening for all patients
Additionally, all Level 3 facilities must report every overdose admission within 48 hours to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).
Should hospitals and facilities demonstrate that they can additionally provide evaluation and treatment for an opiate addiction disorder, they can get classified as a Level 2 facility, and if they offer buprenorphine treatment as an option, they can become a Level 1 program.
Commitment to Care
The hope is that medical programs, hospitals, and emergency rooms across the country will begin to follow these guidelines, and that states will soon make it mandatory to provide the Level 3 bare minimum of care for patients who present with an opiate overdose and further develop their programs so they can be classified as a Level 2 or Level 1 facility. The more comprehensive the care options available – and the more of them there are – the more likely it is that those who are struggling with opiate addiction will be able to get the help they need to stop using before an overdose is fatal.