Reed visits Newport clinic to highlight solutions to fentanyl crisis
Senator calls for more education, harm reduction and economic sanctions
President & CEO Linda Hurley (left) and Senator Jack Reed (right) with advocate Matthew Brown (middle) at CODAC Behavioral Healthcare’s Newport clinic. (Jocelyn Jackson/ Rhode Island Current)
NEWPORT — The rise in fentanyl-contaminated drugs continues to demonstrate the chilling truth that a single pill holds the potential to be fatal.
That is the message of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) “One Pill Can Kill” campaign, which brought U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to CODAC Behavioral Healthcare’s Newport clinic on Tuesday.
Reed joined CODAC President and CEO Linda Hurley to draw attention to the $120 million Rhode Island will receive in opioid settlement money over the next 10 to 15 years to fund solutions preventing substance abuse in the state. A portion of this funding would increase resources similar to CODAC where people can receive help for recovering and additional guidance with healthcare.
Also attending the event were Matthew Brown, who has experience with recovering from addiction, and South Kingstown Police Chief Matthew C. Moynihan.
Brown was prescribed opiates to help with pain from a car crash and began abusing his prescription drugs. Eventually, he turned to buying illicit street drugs.
“I started an addiction to what I thought was Percocet that ended up being fentanyl,” Brown said.
The addiction turned his life upside down but fortunately, Brown sought out help through CODAC and has been substance free for over a year.
“There is no safe supply in the illicit drug market,” he said.
Individuals taking pills not prescribed to them are more at risk of consuming fentanyl-laced products. Fake pills and fake prescription pills are easily accessible and most of the time look like prescription opioids, according to the DEA.
The DEA seized 50.6 million fake pills last year, the majority of them laced with fentanyl, more than double the amount from 2021.
Educating teenagers and young adults about consuming illicit drugs and the threat it poses to their health is crucial to stopping the spread of drug abuse, Moynihan said.
“If you are a parent of a teenager I urge you to make sure children know about how dangerous the pills are,” he said. “Let them know that it’s not safe to take any pill that wasn’t prescribed to them.”
In 2022, fentanyl was responsible for most overdoses and killed 110,000 Americans including 434 Rhode Islanders, Reed said. He emphasized the importance of accessibility to test strips and overdose reversal medication like Narcan.
Reed helped Rhode Island receive $1.5 million in nationwide funding through State Opioid Response Grants and $719 million to improve detecting and seizing fentanyl and other narcotics at ports of entry. An additional $105 million will invest in prohibiting organized crime around fentanyl and illicit substances.
“If you or a loved one are buying or taking pills from off the streets or from anywhere that is not a pharmacy or a physician, the odds are that it’s not what you think,” Reed said.
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