- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The Rhode Island health department has announced new reporting requirements to help the state address a rising number of accidental drug overdose deaths.

Health Director Michael Fine said health care professionals and hospitals must now report all opiate overdoses or suspected overdoses to the health department within 48 hours. Fine said the quicker reports should help the state reduce deaths and help addicts get treatment.

It’s hoped the data will help the state identify overdose risk factors and target substance abuse treatment.

The health department said Rhode Island, like other states, is in the midst of a “severe” overdose crisis involving both prescription and street drugs.

The state has reported more than 70 deaths related to opiate overdoses since the beginning of the year, many involving the use of heroin and the prescription painkiller fentanyl.

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