September 21, 2023
As part of National Recovery Month, Mayor Brett P. Smiley, Chief of Policy and Resiliency Sheila Dormody and Healthy Communities Data and Evaluation Manager Rachel Ferrara, MSW today announced the City’s Overdose Prevention Plan, which outlines the ways in which the City will work to expand investments in recovery and sets long-term goals of further integrating behavioral health supports across City departments. This new strategic approach was developed in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health Community Overdose Engagement initiative, and the Mayor’s Coalition on Behavioral Health Citywide Overdose Prevention Subcommittee.
“While Providence is facing some of the same challenges as other cities across the nation, we believe our approach to solving them is different,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “Reducing behavioral health care disparities and improving access to harm reduction services and other supports requires a collaborative, multi-faceted approach. This strategic plan is a major step forward. Working with partners we are committed to harm reduction with an emphasis on helping those struggling with addiction find recovery.”
The Opioid Overdose Prevention Plan identifies strategic priorities in promotion, prevention, rescue and harm reduction, treatment and recovery. Though the plan sets goals over the course of three to five years, there are immediate needs for more local recovery programming that the City and the Office of Healthy Communities has started to advance.
As a first step towards expanding recovery resources and to ensure the City is accurately meeting local needs, the Office of Health Communities earlier this month put out a Request for Information (RFI) on recovery programming. Through this RFI, community behavioral healthcare providers will be able to advise the City on which programs and supports are most needed and collaborate with the City to ensure successful implementation. Additionally, the Office of Healthy Communities also put out a request for proposal that seeks to establish a new partnership with a local organization to oversee the City’s Mobile Street Outreach program, Naloxone Distribution and the Safe Stations program. In this RFP, the City is prioritizing behavioral healthcare partners that use the peer recovery support services model, so people are receiving support from program specialists with lived experiences.
Several components of Mayor Smiley’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Plan are being supported by grant funding and by Opioid Settlement Funds; dollars that resulted for the 2021 National Opioids lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that the City of Providence participated in. To date, Providence has received $2.4 million through the lawsuit which will now be used to for comprehensive outreach, as outlined in the Opioid Prevention Plan, and the initial implementation of recovery programs. To date, the City has used a portion of the funds to conduct a mini-grant program with Providence-based recovery organization Victa. The Neighbors Seeking Recovery mini-grant program provides financial support to people attempting to enter or complete recovery programs but face financial barriers.
In comparison with other communities across Rhode Island, Providence has felt the deep impacts of the opioid overdose epidemic. Rates of overdose fatalities in Providence have been the second highest in the State since 2017, except for 2018, when it was the highest in Rhode Island.