Heal on Wheels is proposed as a mobile center that provides culturally competent, bilingual harm reduction and overdose prevention to historically underserved Hispanic and Latinx communities in Rhode Island. The mobile center will partner with local community organizations to deliver culturally responsive materials and determine optimal mobile site “pop up” locations. On board, they will distribute resources (e.g., local recovery clinics, harm reduction centers, faith-based/support meetings) and harm reduction materials (e.g., fentanyl test strips, Naloxone/Narcan, clean needles). A phone and laptop will also be available for use on board.

Ashley Gaipo, Amanda Block, Paola Jimenez, Jhanavi Kapadia, Sarah Tokarz, and Sage Mueller

This team proposes an initiative in partnership with a Rhode Island community organization that builds on a peer-centered, low barrier harm reduction model developed by people with lived experience of drug use. As future legalization efforts take hold, the guiding principles of this model will then be used to inform research opportunities and harm reduction initiatives.

Team members were Avi Yocheved, Joseph Cordo, Peach Anderson, Forest Tyler, and Ashley Perry

This team proposes to leverage an established IoT pipeline to ensure automated, handsfree supply monitoring and management for community naloxone program in high-risk locations, in collaboration with Naloxbox team and Rhode Island DMAT. In addition to providing status updates on the box, the development of a web portal is proposed to collect metrics from owner-users of the boxes on the circumstances surrounding each use case.

Leo Kobayashi, MD, Geoff Capraro, MD, Ashesh Gohil, and Brooke Lawrence

Access Express is proposed as a physical solution to deliver harm reduction materials and other basic needs to people on their time. The idea is a modular, compact system of 24/7-access harm reduction dispensaries paired with a community engagement hub that democratizes harm reduction and facilitates movement of machines to be responsive to community needs. The creation of a website is proposed to allow communities to share resources, submit requests for dispensaries, and request community-specific materials.

Brendan Jacka, PhD, Laurie MacDougall, and Leah Germinara

Drug Overdose Deaths, Fueled by Fentanyl, Hit Record High in U.S. 

Nation records more than 100,000 fatalities over 12 months for first time

Wall Street Journal

By Jon Kamp Julie Wernau

“The U.S. recorded its highest number of drug-overdose deaths in a 12-month period,
surpassing 100,000 for the first time in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were an estimated 100,306 drug deaths in the 12 months running through April, the
latest CDC data show. This marks a nearly 29% rise from the deaths recorded in the same
period a year earlier, indicating the U.S. is heading for another full-year record after drug
deaths soared during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“I really don’t think we should be surprised that deaths are rising. We haven’t
fundamentally changed anything in our approach to substance use in the United States or
how we approach social inequity,” said Elizabeth Samuels, an emergency physician at the
Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who researches substance-use disorders.

Read More Here

COBRE Investigators Dr. Brandon del Pozo, Dr. Josiah Rich and Dr. Jennifer Carroll published a manuscript in the International Journal of Drug Policy on “Reports of accidental fentanly overdose among police in the field:  Toward correcting a harmful culture-bound syndrome”.

In August 2021, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore released a dramatic video allegedly depicting a deputy overdosing on fentanyl following incidental exposure during an investigation in the field. The film asserts the deputy only survived thanks to the swift action of his colleagues, who administered four doses of intranasal naloxone, the first two within seconds of his collapse, then two others minutes later. Blowback from experts came swiftly: toxicologists have concluded it is impossible to inhale or transdermally absorb enough fentanyl to quickly overdose (Moss et al., 2018). The deputy’s symptoms were inconsistent with an opioid overdose, and the video’s narration contained serious inaccuracies about overdose identification and response. Such misinformation about the risks of incidental exposure to fentanyl has proven to be persistent among U.S. law enforcement (Attaway, Smiley-McDonald, Davidson, & Kral, 2021Beletsky et al., 2020). It is critical to correct these misconceptions to ensure an appropriate police response to contact with fentanyl, and to reduce the harms that false beliefs can yield.”

Read More Here

Dr. Rich, Director of the COBRE on Opioids and Overdose co-chairs the Emerging Research on Addiction and Overdose session at the 2021 Rhode Island IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, the overdose epidemic in the United States was the worst public health crisis in a century. Since COVID, the epidemic has gotten much worse in many regions of the country. Addiction and overdose are complex and urgent challenges that demand a robust and timely response. This session will cover a wide range of innovative research areas including treatment of opioid use disorder, risk reduction, relapse prevention and community responses. The dynamic format of response to questions, scientific presentations and moderated discussion with audience input promises to be engaging, informative and thought provoking.

Co-chairs: Josiah “Jody” Rich (RI) and Stephen T. Higgins (VT)

Visit here to watch the video session.

Threading the Needle on Drug Addiction:  New York is right to Legalize Syringes

by Brandon Del Pozo

New York Daily News | October 20, 2021

By legalizing the possession of syringes for everyone who injects illicit drugs, New York State has taken an important step in addressing our devastating overdose crisis. As a former NYPD commander, a retired chief of police and a substance use researcher, experience and evidence have convinced me this is the right thing to do. It better protects the public and police from the dangers of getting stuck by a needle, and it lowers the chances of people fatally overdosing in the aftermath of an arrest. We should applaud state Sen. Gustavo Rivera for sponsoring the bill, and Gov. Hochul for signing it into law.”

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