Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island partners with Rhode Island PBS on education efforts to prevent opioid misuse

Partnership brings opioid use prevention resources into middle and high school classrooms

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) and Rhode Island PBS Education Services announced today that they are extending their opioid use prevention partnership into Rhode Island middle and high schools. With the expertise of Rhode Island Student Assistance Services (RISAS), the partnership is introducing age-appropriate media-based curriculum resources.

“Rhode Islanders statewide deeply feel the effects of the opioid epidemic. The rate of use and misuse is unacceptable,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSRI in a prepared statement. “We are committed to continue our efforts to help those suffering from substance use disorders, but we also must to do more to educate our school-aged children on the dangers of opioid use. Supporting the development of targeted lesson plans for Rhode Island students is an important step, and we hope this early education will lead to prevention, reduced stigma and long-term success.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Around 68 percent of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid. Rhode Island has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2016 there were 279 opioid-related overdose deaths in Rhode Island – a rate of 26.7 deaths per 100,000 persons and more than twice the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000.

These lesson plans created by RISAS and distributed through Rhode Island PBS LearningMedia ( are free and will directly foster what can be difficult conversations about:

  • How do opioids affect the lives of friends and family in our community?
  • What is happening in our community that affects addiction?
  • What resources are available for those battling opioid addiction?
  • What do I need to know to help friends and family to avoid health risks or seek help when needed?
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“Rhode Island has faced many crises over the years, but few compare to the current opioid epidemic that has thousands of families under siege. I am proud of the work being done to raise awareness of potential solutions to this issue, not just pointing fingers at the problem,” said David W. Piccerelli, president of Rhode Island PBS. “Collaborating with RISAS on the curriculum and with PBS LearningMedia on distribution takes our local stories and academic lessons to a national stage. The partnership with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island has made this public education and information sharing possible.”

BCBSRI’s partnership with Rhode Island PBS began in 2017 with an educational screening of the Second Opinion series. In 2018, BCBSRI served as exclusive production sponsor and premiered the televised broadcast of The Fix: Examining Rhode Island’s Opioid Epidemic, a documentary that explores the toll of the opioid crisis specifically on Rhode Island. The screening also served as a forum for discussing steps that BCBSRI, state leaders, community partners and the medical community are taking to lead the way to a solution. In May 2018, the partners began bringing the documentary into communities that are hard-hit by the opioid crisis in an effort to promote constructive conversations, raise awareness of treatment opportunities, and continue to destigmatize substance use disorder in Rhode Island.

BCBSRI is directly addressing the opioid epidemic at the local level by reducing opioid prescriptions and collaborating with medical professionals, employers, elected officials, policy leaders and community partners to address gaps in the continuum of care. BCBSRI works with a number of organizations, such as the Addiction Services Center at Roger Williams Medical Center, CODAC, Anchor Recovery Center, Bradley Hospital and Butler Hospital, to provide access to needed treatment. And last year, BCBSRI made it easier for Rhode Islanders to access behavioral health services by removing the need for utilization review for in-network services and care.

The new curriculum, created by RISAS with Rhode Island PBS content, includes a variety of resources, not only for teachers, but also for parents. The lesson plans and activities are currently being shared with middle and high schools across the state, and can be found online here:

“Working with our partners to make a real impact on the opioid epidemic in our community is deeply rooted in Blue Cross’ overall vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island,” said Keck. “Much important work has been done in the arenas of rescue and recovery within the opioid epidemic given the dire and critical need to save lives of our loved ones, but prevention and education are equally important to stem the tide. While these conversations are difficult to have with kids, they are necessary as we look to raise awareness while supporting those who need our help.”