Help with tech

The Rhode Island Department of Education and Rhode Island Foundation have announced an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to help students and families struggling to access adequate distance learning technology and internet connectivity.

Statewide, the majority of students are able to access distance learning opportunities using technology provided by public school districts. However, through constant contact with each local education agency, RIDE has identified pockets of need in some school communities, including families where multiple siblings are sharing one Chromebook or households without access to internet connectivity.

With that need in mind, Rhode Island Foundation has committed $100,000 to the Fund for Rhode Island Public Education to provide computers and Wi-Fi hotspots to school communities with students and families in need. The Foundation has also issued a statewide challenge, encouraging individuals and local corporations to step up to match the amount.

Donations are accepted

Based on identified needs across the state, and using an equity lens, the Foundation’s commitment and challenge grant funds will be distributed to LEAs or used directly to purchase Chromebooks and hotspots via the Fund for Rhode Island Public Education. Charitable contributions to the Fund in any amount will be accepted. Once the challenge grant is fulfilled, RIDE estimates that approximately 500 hotspots and 400 computers will be available to close technology gaps.

Since distance learning began, a number of local companies and individuals have already assisted districts in the purchase of new technology. Cox Communications donated $25,000 that helped Central Falls School District buy 120 laptops, and Fidelity donated 120 refurbished iPads that were given to three LEAs. Lenny Lopes purchased 15 laptops for Central Falls, and Tom Gilbane, Jr., CEO of Gilbane, and Joe Paolino, former mayor of Providence, donated generously to the Providence Public School District to provide students Wi-Fi access.

Overdose deaths down

The Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals has announced that Rhode Island for the third consecutive year is reporting a reduction in accidental drug overdose deaths occurring in the state.

The state saw 308 accidental drug overdose deaths during 2019 — down from 314 during 2018, and down from a high of 336 in 2016. Since 2016, Rhode Island has seen an 8.3 percent reduction.

The 2019 numbers from the Department of Health, awaiting final validation, show that once again, most of the state’s accidental drug-related overdose deaths — 256, or  83 percent — involved opioids, though alcohol and cocaine were also major contributors.

Rhode Island has taken many steps in recent years to address the overdose epidemic.

In 2015, Gov. Gina Raimondo created the state’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, which has helped to coordinate the state’s response. Since then, Rhode Island has seen a decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions statewide and a steady increase in the number of people using medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

The state has also made naloxone kits more readily available, trained more peer recovery specialists and effectively utilized funding from the federal State Targeted Response grant and the State Opioid Response grant.

The reduction that began in 2017 reversed a trend that saw accidental drug overdose deaths increase 143 percent — from 138 in 2009 to 336 in 2016.

Rhode Island House and Senate Republicans to Governor Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD regarding cellular phone location tracking as part of the state COVID-19 response. The letter, signed unanimously by both House and Senate Minority Caucuses was sent electronically to Governor Raimondo and Director Alexander-Scott on Monday, April 13, 2020.

Cell phone tracking

Rhode Island House and Senate Republicans sent a letter to Gov. Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, this week raising concerns about privacy issues amid the state’s response to COVID 19. The letter condemns the idea of cellular phone location tracking as part of the state pandemic response and was signed unanimously by both House and Senate Minority Caucuses.

The complete letter can be found here.

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