As the state and region grapple with the opioid overdose crisis, an instructor at the Community College of Rhode Island is looking at the potential of massage therapy as a critical early intervention resource.
Massage as part of a holistic approach to preventing opioid addiction is the topic of "Rhode Island's Opioid Crisis: How Can Therapeutic Massage Be Part of the Solution?" from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, in the auditorium at CCRI's Newport County Campus, 1 John H. Chafee Blvd., Newport. The panel discussion, hosted by CCRI's Therapeutic Massage program, is free and open to the public.
Between 2011 and 2015, accidental drug-related overdose deaths rose nearly 60 percent, according to a 2016 report by the Rhode Island Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. The task force recommended changing the culture around chronic pain management by promoting non-opioid therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, yoga and meditation.
Other states have been looking seriously at alternatives such as these, said Karlo Berger, adjunct instructor of therapeutic massage at CCRI.
"We are trying to help Rhode Island think along similar lines. Many addicts begin their path toward addiction after being hurt and being prescribed opiates," Berger said. "Working in concert with physicians and pharmacists, we can try to prevent people from getting to that crisis point."
Panelists include John Westcott, a massage therapist with AMI Group's Integrated Chronic Pain Program; Laura Levine, program director at CODAC Behavioral Healthcare; Tom Guttmacher, family physician at East Bay Community Action program; and Donna Grassi, a CCRI graduate and licensed massage therapist.
The public event is part of Berger's "Integrating Eastern and Western Techniques" course at CCRI. Students will apply the insights gained during the discussion into the student massage clinic and, after graduation, into their practice.
"This is a message about the opportunity for massage therapists to get more involved in addressing the real-world health problems in Rhode Island," he said. "My hope is that our students will play a direct role in helping Rhode Islanders who are in pain and building public awareness about the capacity of massage therapy."