Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death for adults in Rhode Island, claiming multiple lives each week. The Naloxone and Overdose Prevention Education Program of Rhode Island, NOPE-RI, is a program of the RI Disaster Medical Assistance Team and Medical Reserve Corps (RI DMAT/MRC) whose mission is to leverage the RI DMAT/MRC volunteer base to provide opioid overdose prevention education and and support movement building. We recruit, train, and deploy volunteers to educate Rhode Islanders about addiction, overdose prevention, and the use of the naloxone (Narcan).
RI MRC identifies, trains, and organizes local healthcare volunteers able to assist in both large-scale state emergencies and/or smaller community based public health initiatives. With over 1500 registered volunteer health professionals and non-medical volunteers, including all NOPE-RI trainers, the RI MRC is an integral part of preparedness and response activities within the State of Rhode Island. Sponsored by RI DMAT, the 501c3 organization strives to meet the needs of its members and the community by offering emergency training and response exercises on a regular basis, in the form of field hospital operations at mass gathering events across the State. The goal of these events is aimed at training medical health professional volunteers to prepare for and respond to public health and emergency response disasters by providing hospital level care to participants and spectators. RIDMAT/MRC's participation at these events alleviates surge on local EMS services and area hospitals. RI MRC aims to provide support to public health initiatives across the state in order to improve the health and wellness of Rhode Island, ultimately reducing the vulnerability of the population to disaster risk and improving response efforts.
Preventing drug abuse is one of the seven priorities of the Surgeon General's National Prevention Strategy and overdose prevention is a particularly high priority for RI. We collaborate with strategic partners across the state in order to address these issues, including HEALTH, BHDDH, DOC, State Police, municipal law enforcement, URI, Lifespan, and other not-for-profit organizations. These partnerships facilitate the pooling of materials, resources, best practices, advocacy, and person power to enact wide-ranging community change. With a focus on public safety and healthcare professionals, we create and compile training curricula and resource material that assist agencies, organizations, and individuals in implementing simple, cost-effective, evidence-based strategies to combat the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose.
Our programming includes overdose prevention, recognition, and response training, specifically targeted towards law enforcement and public safety professionals, primary care providers, behavioral healthcare providers, corrections, and others. In addition to our in-person education, we serve as a clearinghouse for naloxone and overdose prevention training resources in the state, as well as encouraging and supporting efforts to expand access to naloxone.
Opioid overdose, involving both prescription pain medications and street drugs, is an issue that impacts all RI residents, regardless of socio-economic status, race, age or gender. Most overdose fatalities are preventable if bystanders have appropriate training and are prepared to respond in an effective manner. Medical providers can help mitigate this risk by engaging in abuse/overdose risk determination and prescribing, or co-prescribing, naloxone to patients at risk. Some of the most needed work is bringing this issue to the forefront for communities that have historically been hesitant to recognize overdose as "their problem too." We work to support these efforts and ensure that all Rhode Islanders have the tools they need to prevent, recognize, and respond to opioid overdose.
"RI MRC is part of the national network of dedicated volunteers and leaders engaged in local communities across the nation whose missions are to strengthen public health, improve the response to emergencies, and build resiliency," said CAPT Rob Tosatto, Director of the Division of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps. "With the challenges we face today, we must constantly look for sustainable and cost effective ways to improve health and safety while reducing disaster and health risks." By drawing on the same robust volunteer base that fueled the successful H1N1 vaccination clinics in 2009-2010, NOPE-RI strives to serve as a model for the disaster medical community as they rethink their role both acute and ongoing public health emergencies.