Rhode Island

The Innovations Fund

Phases: 2018, 2019

Building a Culture of Whole-Person Health: A Stigma-Reduction Project

Project Description:



The Rhode Island Action Coalition’s (RIAC) project focused on reducing stigma and increasing nurses’ awareness of substance use disorders (SUD) by creating professional development opportunities, promoting interprofessional engagement, and identifying best practices. They sought to organize community support for those seeking to recover from SUD, and expanded the Action Coalition’s cross-sector network, while engaging nurse leaders to raise community awareness, scale successful programs, and improve hiring practices that address stigma reduction.

Summary of completed project

The RIAC convened a cross-sectional group of over 30 stakeholders from across the state’s health systems, addiction recovery and harm reduction providers, state agencies, and interested community members. The group identified common objectives, including expanding continuing education opportunities to reduce stigma, and educating the public on how to help individuals with SUD. The RIAC brought together a cohort of nurse leaders from across to the state who became familiar with best practices around SUD and shared these practices within their organizations.


The RIAC developed a website, https://www.recoveryri.org/, to be a resource for individuals and organizations who want more information on addiction recovery. To promote awareness on SUD, they hosted a two-part play series and a panel entitled “What Providers Need to Know.” They received $10,000 from the Rhode Island Foundation for the performances and outreach.

The RIAC also served on a team of professionals participating in the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) on Opioids and Overdoses annual hackathon. Their winning idea ultimately led to the concept for Mainstay, RI, a recovery center for those who have overdosed on opioids.

Work from this project helped familiarize nurse leaders and the state officials the best practices for assisting people with SUDs while addressing stigma and raising awareness of SUD among health providers.



The Rhode Island Action Coalition had two primary goals. The first goal was to prepare nurses to provide care for populations with health disparities by utilizing the community-based enhanced primary program developed by a local college. The second goal was to disseminate resources and educational opportunities that promote interprofessional team practices among Rhode Island health practices by developing an awareness and integration campaign to aid in dissemination of these resources.

Summary of completed project

Due to external factors and varying levels of institutional engagement, the Action Coalition was unable to move forward with their first goal. The Rhode Island Action Coalition was successful in expanding participation in the Rhode Island Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Practice Collaborative (RICIPEP) to include the Community College of Rhode Island. The RICPEP had been composed of the Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School, the Rhode Island College of Nursing and School of Social Work, and the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, and College of Health Sciences. The clinical practice partners were two large health systems (Lifespan and Care New England), the Providence VA Medical Center, and the southern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center (AHEC). The Rhode Island Action Coalition was also successful in promoting the interprofessional educational efforts through its network and email distribution list; a garnering media publicity of the joint education effort and working with communication personnel from the participating partners to increase participation in joint education efforts and the annual RICEP conferences in 2018, 2019, and 2020.


In the first year of the program, over 200 health professional students from the community college (CCRI) who previously would not have had an opportunity to learn in a multi-disciplinary, interprofessional health team settings were able to participate in and work with health colleagues in a variety of diverse teams. The plan is to expand the current programming to increase the number of students in each subsequent year. Additionally, the publicity achieved in promoting the IPE activities has raised awareness among the general public and health leaders about the importance of health teams to practice collaboratively.