Brown professor helping state reduce prison opioid deaths

August 30, 2019
opioid overdose drugs

A Brown University professor helped implement a first-in-the-nation plan to reduce opioid overdoses in Rhode Island prisons that has dramatically reduced overdose deaths.

A story by Vice looked at an epidemic of overdose deaths in US prisons, highlighting the story of one man who was punished after his mother tried to sneak in an FDA-approved withdrawal treatment. He died not long after his release from prison.

Though states across the country are seeing exponential increases in overdose deaths, Rhode Island is a rare exception. The state implemented a plan to offer three FDA-approved drugs -- a potentially lifesaving medication to those addicted to opioids.

Dr. Josiah Rich, a Brown professor of medicine, was appointed by Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo to the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force Expert Team. Dr. Rich spearheaded the initiative to make sure state inmates had access to the withdrawal medication -- a move that Vice notes reduced the state's opioid deaths by 61 percent.

In the story, Dr. Rich says he heard about several instances in which people had smuggled the legal drugs into prisons, even hiding them under crayon wrappers or underneath stamps.

Read the Vice story to hear more about how Brown University is helping Rhode Island to lead the way in dealing with a nationwide epidemic of opioid deaths in our nation's prisons.