- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Seven more overdose deaths have been reported in Rhode Island, bringing the total this year to 56.

A spokesman for the state health department reported the new total on Monday. James Palmer said two more deaths took place over the weekend, but the rest happened earlier in the year and have since been reclassified as overdoses by the medical examiner.

Nineteen of the 56 cases have been officially confirmed as overdoses through lab screenings. Palmer said only one of the 19 didn’t involve illicit drugs, and 15 involved the powerful painkiller fentanyl.

Health Director Michael Fine has called the overdose deaths an epidemic, and says more resources should be devoted to substance abuse prevention and treatment.

Fine also wants municipal police departments to carry the anti-overdose drug Narcan.

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