The summit was organized by Gov. Gina Raimondo's overdose task force. While the task force does have a strategic plan for tackling the crisis state-wide, it also has asked cities and towns to tailor local approaches that make sense for their unique size and needs.

“Communities know their communities much better than the state does,” said James McDonald, a medical director at the state’s department of health. “So rather than the state telling communities: Here’s an intervention that works across the whole state, we ask cities and towns to come up with their own approach, falling within the overarching plan.”

McDonald blamed the persistence of the crisis in part on fentanyl -- which is far more potent than other opioids -- and also the many factors that might predispose someone to addiction, like childhood trauma or mental health issues.

In her remarks to the crowd, Raimondo noted that although the state has a way to go toward ending the crisis, there's reason for optimism. Overdose deaths have decreased by 6.5% in the last year, and she says other states are looking to Rhode Island as a model.

"That's why I believe we have reason for hope," Raimondo said.