Governor Dan McKee
Governor Dan McKee. Photo courtesy of Governor Dan McKee Facebook Page

Governor Dan McKee today signed an Executive Order enhancing the Governor’s Overdose Task Force, outlining his goals for the group over the next two years, and also announced that for the first time ever, the Task Force will have a full-time Director and a new Community Co-Chair.

The announcement was held at the future site of CODAC Behavioral Healthcare in Providence.

“Accidental drug overdoses and ongoing addiction to substances continue to claim the lives of far too many Rhode Islanders,” said Governor McKee. “To respond to this crisis, we’re coming together to enhance the Governor’s Overdose Task Force with the support of two strong leaders in this field. I thank Cathy Schultz and Thomas Joyce for stepping up to serve and support our communities.”

“Since 2015, Governor’s Overdose Task Force has helped to create innovative, nationally-recognized recovery programs. Today, the Task Force begins its next chapter, made even stronger by Cathy and Thomas’s years of hands-on experience in treating addiction,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos.

The Executive Order continues the existence of the Governor’s Overdose Task Force, which was founded in 2015. Two new components of the Executive Order in 2022 are the introduction of a Community Co-Chair for the Task Force and the requirement for a Racial Equity Strategic Plan and an Action Plan to be delivered to the Governor by next June.

Governor McKee’s FY23 budget included funding for a Director of the Governor’s Overdose Task Force, with a new full-time equivalent position at the Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS). Cathy Schultz, who currently serves as a Project Manager in the Drug Overdose Prevention Program with the Rhode Island Department of Health, was announced as the Task Force’s new Director.

Schultz has served as the Project Manager and Overdose Prevention Specialist at the West Warwick and Woonsocket Health Equity Zones, a mobile outreach worker for Anchor Recovery Community Center, a Crisis Intervention Counselor at AdCare, and a Housing Stabilization Case Manager at the House of Hope. In addition, Cathy has several years of experience as a certified peer recovery specialist and statewide Narcan trainer and distributor.

As Task Force Director, Schultz will staff the Task Force leadership, including the Co-Chairs of the 10 Task Force Workgroups; coordinate the fiscal alignment of the state agencies that address addiction issues; and ensure that the Task Force works to meet the vision and goals laid out by the Governor. She will also collaborate with the staff of the Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee process, helping to ensure that opioid settlement dollars are spent effectively toward desired outcomes.

Schultz received an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a concentration in Addiction Studies followed by a Master of Public Health from Southern New Hampshire University.

“Drug overdoses can be prevented, and lives can be saved,” said Schultz. “I am looking forward to bringing both my community and state experience to the position of Task Force Director as we work together on a comprehensive strategy to combat addiction and overdose.”

“Cathy will join us in this critical leadership role as we work together to save lives,” said Task Force Co-Chair and EOHHS Acting Secretary Ana Novais. “Cathy is uniquely qualified to hold this position and believes in addressing equity at the root of all that she does both professionally and personally.”

“Having Cathy Schultz exclusively focused on the charge of the Task Force will make our efforts more productive, and having a Community Co-Chair on the Task Force will ensure that our work reflects a community perspective,” said Task Force Co-Chair and BHDDH Director Richard Charest. “We look forward to working with Cathy and collaborating with the new Community Co-Chair.”

Governor McKee also welcomed Thomas Joyce as the first Community Co-Chair of the Task Force through December 2023.

Thomas Joyce was one of the original Governor’s Task Force members and is a leader in Rhode Island’s recovery community. A person in long-term recovery, Joyce has experience working in multiple substance use disorder treatment models including medical assisted treatment. He has developed innovative, nationally recognized recovery programs such as Anchor ED as well as the first Peer Recovery outreach team in Rhode Island which is now the Anchor MORE Team. Currently, he serves as the Director of the East Bay Recovery Center.

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