Hackathons have become all the rage at working collaboratively to solve problems. Now one will be held in Rhode Island to brainstorm solutions to a health crisis that is hitting the state and rest of the country hard:  the opioid epidemic. Prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 will be awarded to the teams that come up with the top three hacks. 

The COBRE Hackathon is a three-day event organized by the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) on Opioids and Overdose at Rhode Island Hospital. It will take place at Rhode Island College from Fri., Sept. 6 through Sun., Sept. 8.

Community members, students and professionals have been invited to unleash their creativity and caring to help address a problem that every day is contributing to addiction and a rate of fatal overdoses estimated by the CDC at about 130 Americans every day. Hacks can come in the form of technological solutions or have nothing to do with apps or software of any kind. Suggested topics to combat the opioid epidemic and overdoses include community-based strategies, healthcare solutions and policy solutions. 

“This is a complicated, multifaceted and rapidly evolving epidemic that demands creative and innovative approaches from many disciplines. We want anthropologists collaborating with economists collaborating with medical researchers collaborating with social scientists, artists and biotech people,” said Josiah “Jody” Rich, M.D., M.P.H., an infectious disease physician at The Miriam Hospital who is director of the COBRE and co-director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital. “This is a deadly epidemic, the worst in 100 years. It’s hard to find a family in Rhode Island that has not been impacted by the disease.”

On the first day of the event, two guest speakers will set the stage with inspirational talks. One is Tom Coderre, senior advisor to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. Coderre, who is open about being in recovery from addiction since 2003, helps coordinate the state’s response to the opioid crisis as a liaison to the General Assembly.  The other speaker is Gordon Casey, founder of Brave Technology Coop, which has developed technological tools to connect people when they’re most at risk of overdose. Its innovations include mobile apps, smart buttons and overdose detection senses, all co-designed by individuals that consider themselves at risk of overdose. 

The COBRE on Opioids and Overdose was established in 2018 with $11.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its mission is to further research into opioid use disorder and to identify successful initiatives to combat the problem.

“Rhode Island has been on the forefront of innovative approaches to addressing this epidemic. We’ve had many successes that have been replicated across the nation. We want to continue that,” said Traci Green, Ph.D., M.S.c deputy director of the COBRE and an epidemiological researcher with Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University. Having helped launch pilot studies to provide medication-assisted treatment in Rhode Island prisons, she said, “We are fortunate to have funding from the NIH to establish a center of research excellence to address the opioid and overdose crisis. We need the best and the brightest ideas.”

To sign up for the event, go to Eventbrite.com and search for COBRE Hackathon. You can sign up as a team or as an individual willing to join a team.


Richard Salit

Senior Public Relations Officer

The Miriam Hospital, Newport Hospital, Gateway Healthcare


[email protected]