Drug overdose deaths decline in R.I. after years of steady increases

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State health officials say the number of accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island declined in 2017 after years of steady increases.

There were 323 deaths last year, down from 336 in 2016. That’s about a 4 percent decrease.

Health Department Director Nicole Alexander-Scott says it’s a “small bit of momentum” that’s energizing.

Alexander-Scott says a new program to treat inmates for opioid addiction in prison contributed to the decrease.

Rhode Island began screening all inmates for opioid addiction in 2016 and began providing medication-assisted treatment.

The state uses three federally-approved medications for opioid addiction.

Prison systems with treatment programs typically provide only one medication to some inmates.

Though overdose deaths decreased overall in Rhode Island, fentanyl-related deaths increased by about 5 percent. There were 205 fentanyl-related deaths last year.

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