McKee, EOHHS, Partners Announce Wound Care Pilot Program

Published on Thursday, August 31, 2023

Partnership will serve people living in the community who have significant wounds and other medical needs. 

CRANSTON, RI – Governor Dan McKee, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and their partners today announced a medical respite wound care pilot program. This pilot, an extension of EOHHS’s medical respite care program, will provide direct wound care services in the community and provide referrals to the medical respite program for people who qualify.

“One benefit of this program is that we will reach people who need wound care, especially those exposed to xylazine,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Xylazine is a long-acting veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use, which has been found in combination with fentanyl in the illicit drug supply. This partnership is just the latest in Rhode Island’s ongoing effort to address substance use and this overdose crisis and save and improve lives of Rhode Islanders.”  

Drug testing conducted in Rhode Island has regularly found xylazine in samples that were sold as fentanyl. Other samples that were found to have fentanyl with xylazine include crystal meth, pressed pills such as illicit Percocet, and crack. 

“Xylazine use has been associated with skin and soft tissue ulcerations and wounds,” said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Charest, a former pharmacist. “There have been numerous reports that the use of xylazine is associated with skin lesions, abscesses, and cellulitis, which, if left untreated, may result in serious and sometimes deadly infections. Once again, our team has come together to address an emerging issue in Rhode Island’s substance use and overdose epidemic.” 

Xylazine has also been known to cause deep sedation that can last for hours. Especially if combined with opioids or other sedating drugs, xylazine may lead to breathing problems and make it difficult to revive a person who is overdosing.  

As part of this new program, certified wound care specialists will partner with EOHHS, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) and other State agencies to engage and develop relationships with community-based organizations. Organizations will include drop-in centers, harm reduction peer organizations, and homelessness service providers in locations across the state. The teams will conduct outreach directly on the street, and in both congregate and non-congregate shelters, meal sites, soup kitchens, and other relevant locations. 

“Westbay Community Action is partnering with the State of Rhode Island, EOHHS, RIDOH and many community partners to bring a mobile medical respite wound care program directly to individuals in the community throughout the State,” said Paul Salera, President/CEO of Westbay Community Action. “This program will be ‘boots on the ground,’ meeting people where they are at in the community to ensure that each individual will have the treatment and care necessary to maintain their health.”  

The first phase of the program includes trauma-informed and anti-stigma training provided by a person with lived experience to the providers and medical respite program staff. The budget for this six-month pilot program is $331,305 using opioid abatement funding from recent settlements. This pilot program supports the Governor’s Overdose Task Force Strategic Plan and Rhode Island 2030 goals focused on enhancing public health and wellness as well as prioritizing housing. 

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day, with large-scale naloxone distribution, candlelight vigils, and overdose awareness and remembrance events throughout Rhode Island.