- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A large number of overdose deaths continue to concern health officials, the Pawtucket Red Sox look to stay in Pawtucket and Brown University celebrates an important milestone. Here are five things to know in Rhode Island:


Some lawmakers are pushing a plan that would require people who receive food stamps to present a photo ID when they use their electronic benefit cards to buy food. Republican Rep. Patricia Morgan says it would crack down on fraud, but critics argue requiring photo IDs could create headaches while stigmatizing the state’s poorest residents. Nearly 180,000 Rhode Island residents receive food stamp assistance.


Health officials say the number of people who have died of a drug overdose in Rhode Island this year has now risen to at least 56. At least 15 involved the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Overdose deaths linked to heroin and fentanyl are rising across the region. Health Director Michael Fine calls the deaths an epidemic. Several police departments are now carrying the overdose antidote Narcan, and Richmond officers are being trained over the next few months. Meanwhile, a Woonsocket man has been arrested on charges he sold fentanyl and is facing federal charges.


The Pawtucket Red Sox are working to finalize a deal to extend the team’s lease at McCoy Stadium with the state until 2021. The AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox will also work with the state on a comprehensive study of the stadium to determine what improvements are needed and when the work should be done. The City Council this week approved an extension of the state’s lease on the land, plus an option for another five-year extension. PawSox President Mike Tamburro says the club is synonymous with the city, and the team wants to extend the life expectancy of McCoy for as long as possible.


Smithfield officials are considering Bryant University’s offer to pay around $200,000 per year to cover the cost of public safety services the tax-exempt institution receives. University President Ronald Machtley told the town manager in a letter that he has “serious issues” with the deal, but the school will agree to it in the spirit of resolving the matter. The General Assembly last year passed a bill allowing Smithfield to charge Bryant for emergency services. The town council is scheduled to discuss it March 18.


The university on Providence’s east side kicked off a celebration of its 250th anniversary this weekend. The school received its charter in 1764 and opened its doors as the College of Rhode Island in Warren in 1765. It was the third college in New England, after Harvard and Yale, and was the only Ivy League university to allow students of all religions to attend. The college moved to Providence in 1770 and was renamed in 1804 following a $5,000 gift from Providence businessman Nicholas Brown. The university is holding a number of events over the next 15 months to celebrate.

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