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Dr. Jerome Larkin is one step closer to leading R.I. Department of Health • Rhode Island Current

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Dr. Jerome Larkin is one step closer to leading R.I. Department of Health • Rhode Island Current


After a small clinic’s worth of physicians showed up to testify in support of Gov. Dan McKee’s choice for the next director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services affirmed its support for Dr. Jerome “Jerry” Larkin at a hearing Thursday.

The committee voted 5-1 in favor of Larkin’s nomination, with Sen. Elaine Morgan, a Hopkinton Republican, serving the only nay vote. 

Greg Paré, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Senate, said in an email Thursday that Larkin’s appointment will hit the Senate floor on Tuesday, May 19.

The clinicians, many of them colleagues and former protégés of Larkin, came to say nice things about the doctor who serves as medical director of inpatient infectious diseases consultation services at Rhode Island Hospital and teaches clinical medicine as a professor at Brown University. The committee’s mailbox had also been stuffed with written testimonies.    

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“We got many, many letters,” said Sen. Joshua Miller, who chairs the committee. “I don’t remember seeing a letter that was not in support.”

But the most memorable affirmation may have been from Dr. Sabina Holland, medical director of the pediatric HIV clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. 

“The highest compliment that a pediatrician can give another pediatrician is to entrust them with the care of their children,” Holland said. “He could have my children.” 

The crowd laughed. Chair Miller offered a playful retort. 

“He can’t have my children,” Miller said.

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Jokes aside, Larkin’s competency with children was underlined in several testimonies — including those from members of the Tiverton School Committee, which Larkin has chaired since 2017. Larkin has served on the school committee since 2012 and was most recently reelected in 2020 with 31.1% of the vote.   

The afternoon’s first two testimonies came from school committee members, including Deborah Pallasch.

“I have known Dr. Larkin since he became involved in the anarchy that can be Tiveron politics,” Pallasch said. “In the middle of COVID, as the chair of our school committee — as you can imagine, quite a scary time for us, quite a scary time for our parents, quite a scary time for our children — he led us as a community through that so deftly and so patiently and so respectfully.”

Larkin, in his own words to the Senate, emphasized the at-time martial nature of municipal school politics. “As chair for the last seven years, I am the veteran of 12 hardball budget seasons — some of them scorched earth, some of them merely trench warfare,” Larkin said. “I believe if you can understand the budget of a small-to-medium-sized school district, you have a better-than-even chance of understanding the budget of the Pentagon.”

“The Pentagon might actually be easier, as it seems to be able to spend money unbudgeted, freely, without any apparent consequence.”

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Priorities include stabilizing hospitals and nursing homes

The consistency of Larkin’s school board role contrasts the revolving door at the health department, a fixture of the McKee administration. The last permanent director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, worked under Gina Raimondo’s administration and led the department during the height of the COVID pandemic. Alexander-Scott was reappointed for another five years in 2020, but vacated the position in January 2022, less than a year into McKee’s governorship. 

That vacuum has been plugged by three interim directors since then: Dr. Jim McDonald, Dr. Utpala Bandy, and most recently Dr. Staci Fischer, who took over as acting director when Bandy retired on March 31. Statewide health directors are rare birds nationally, and regional directors are common in larger states. The compensation for such an encompassing job has been criticized for the turnover, although McKee recently and successfully raised the base salary to $250,000 

Speaking to reporters, Larkin said that, if confirmed by the full Senate, his priorities would likely include the stabilization of hospitals and nursing homes, as well as responding to the opioid overdose crisis.

“But I’m still on the outside looking in,” Larkin said. 

Larkin was so far outside, in fact, that he was unsure how to assess the time demands of his possible new job. Would he continue serving on the school committee?

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“I haven’t made a decision,” Larkin told a reporter. “Certainly, you know, the Department of Health is a full-time job but so is being a doctor.”

We got many, many letters. I don’t remember seeing a letter that was not in support.

– Sen. Joshua Miller, a Cranston Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services

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Judging by the afternoon’s testimonies, Larkin is a good clinician. His 1993 medical degree is from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and his research specialty is tick-related illnesses and Lyme disease in children and pregnant women.

Dr. Michael Koster pointed out Larkin’s talents as a “med-peds” physician, or someone who “understands pediatric issues as much as he understands adult medical issues.”

“You don’t get a showing of physicians like this,” Koster said, referring to the turnout for the hearing. “You have to earn it. It’s not something you can buy.”

While the public offered no opposition, the senate committee did have a few questions. Miller pointed out the statute that outlines the health director’s qualifications — a prescription which includes “a minimum of five (5) years full time experience in health administration.” Miller was curious how that requirement fit into Larkin’s experience.

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“I think it depends,” Larkin began. “So, if you look at how much time do I spend seeing patients — so, everything I do is subsumed under the title of the director of infectious disease consults service. So in many regards, my clinical work is an administrative responsibility. I have to know how those services work.”

Larkin estimated that administrative duties probably comprise half his time currently. 

Sen. Linda Ujifusa, a Portsmouth Democrat, asked Larkin about the state’s shortage of primary care doctors as well as reimbursement rates. Could any initiatives from the health department help shape a more positive environment for Rhode Island’s doctors?

Larkin replied that neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut are well known to have superior reimbursement rates, but that “rectifying that ultimately is actually a federal issue.”

Dr. Jerome Larkin has served as chairman of the Tiverton School Committee for the past seven years. After a State House confirmation hearing on his nomination to be director of the Rhode Island Department of Health on Thursday, May 16, 2024, Larkin said he was still undecided if would continue to serve on the school committee or seek re-election if he was appointed. (Alexander Castro/Rhode island Current)

“Would you mask our kids again?”

Morgan asked Larkin about the state’s handling of the pandemic. Larkin suggested looking at a map, and that Rhode Island ultimately “dodged a bullet” given the severity of the pandemic in nearby Massachusetts and New York. 

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Morgan then narrowed her focus. “Closing down the state: Would you do that again?” she asked.

“Do I think the decision was right to shut down in March of 2020 at that time? Yes,” Larkin said.  “Could we have reopened faster? Probably. There was certainly a loss in school districts, and there’s certainly an economic impact on this. So that’s my sort of armchair general retrospective perspective on it.”

“Would you mask our kids again?” Morgan continued.

“Yes. Yes,” Larkin said, and pointed to the measure as effective in reducing transmission, allowing kids to get back in school sooner.

At 4 p.m., bells started ringing.

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“It’s not a fire alarm,” Sen. Pam Lauria said. “It’s just the bells for the Senate.”

Miller used the literal sounding of the alarm as a backdrop for one more comment.

“And with that bell from the Senate, I just would like to ask you to be aware of a couple of issues that we have discussed in committee this session,” Miller said, and pointed to recent discussions involving scope of practice. Should committees in the General Assembly be tasked with regulating scopes of practice, or should that be left entirely to medical boards and the health department?

But rather than discuss “going down a very slippery slope of having scope of practice legislated,” Miller filed the question away for another day, and the motion for a vote on Larkin’s advancement began. Sen. Alana DiMario seconded the motion. Only Morgan voted no.  

Larkin’s own words to the committee were punctuated with the occasional cough.

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“Excuse my voice. My allergies decided to start today,” Larkin said after he sat down in front of the mic, following odes from his colleagues. “Yeah, I guess that was the easy part. It’s the fondest wish of every Irishman to attend their own wake, and I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing this afternoon.”

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Rhode Island

RI’s first head of the Cannabis Office has been tapped. Here’s what we know about her.

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RI’s first head of the Cannabis Office has been tapped. Here’s what we know about her.


Michelle A. Reddish has been tapped to be the first administrator of the Rhode Island Cannabis Office.

“Michelle’s significant expertise in regulatory compliance, development, and technological advancement position her to hit the ground running on day one,” said Governor Dan McKee in a news release. “I’m confident Michelle will effectively continue Rhode Island’s commitment to promoting the safe usage and responsible regulation of cannabis in our state.”

Kim Ahern, Chair of the Cannabis Control Commission, said of Reddish: “Her regulatory and industry experience will help ensure our Commission continues its thoughtful and thorough progress as we carefully expand the adult-use market in Rhode Island.

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More: How are recreational pot sales in RI a year after legalization? What the numbers show.

What does the administrator do?

The administrator coordinates the oversight and administration of cannabis use in Rhode Island, per state statute.

The position reports to the Cannabis Control Commission, which controls regulation, licensing, and enforcement requirements for cannabis establishments in Rhode Island, as well as policy for both adult use and medical cannabis.

Who is Michelle Reddish?

According to the news release, Reddish is the Chief Operating Officer at the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which oversees Oklahoma’s medical cannabis industry.

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She previously was the Chief Regulatory Officer at that same agency. In both positions, she focused on streamlining internal services, records retention and compliance.

Of the appointment, Reddish said: “I’m thrilled to move to beautiful Rhode Island with my children and step into the role of inaugural administrator. “I am eager to build strong partnerships across the state in support of safe and equitable access to cannabis. I sincerely thank Governor McKee and the Cannabis Control Commission for their trust and recommendation.”

What comes next?

Like many similar positions, Reddish’s appointment must go through the Senate for confirmation.

The news release said McKee has already submitted her name to the Senate for consideration.



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Rhode Island

Rhode Island FC’s president is out – The Boston Globe

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Rhode Island FC’s president is out – The Boston Globe


Change is coming at the top of Rhode Island’s minor league soccer franchise.

Rhode Island FC has replaced team president Brett Luy after just 18 months on the job, and only 10 matches into its inaugural season.

Luy has accepted a special advisor role with Fortuitous Partners – the company that is building the team’s soccer stadium in Pawtucket – and will no longer be involved in day-to-day activities with the soccer team, according to Mike Raia, a spokesman for the team.”

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Brett played an important role as the club’s inaugural president,” Raia said in a statement. “He oversaw the efforts to secure important sponsors, develop a strong working relationship with Bryant University, and build the club’s first ever roster. The club expects to name a new president in the near future.”

David Brady will oversee the club’s day-to-day operations until a new president is named.

The bigger picture: It’s uncommon for an American sports franchise to abruptly part ways with its president 10 matches into a season, especially since this year is essentially a soft opening before the new stadium opens next season. 

A transition this early certainly wasn’t part of the team’s plan. When he was hired in 2022, team owner Brett Johnson said he was certain that Luy would “build Rhode Island FC into a crown jewel franchise for USL.”


This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.





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R.I. needs a reformed council to protect its coastal resources – The Boston Globe

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R.I. needs a reformed council to protect its coastal resources – The Boston Globe


As a longtime resident of Jamestown, R.I., I appreciated Edward Fitzpatrick’s article on reforming the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (“Advocates press to replace R.I. coastal council,” Metro, May 14). For too many years we have been subjected to the whims of a 10-member council whose political appointees have made terrible decisions about protection, preservation, and wise use of our coastal resources. This has been a classic case of poor governance, lacking transparency and accountability.

We face growing existential challenges to our coastal environment from the global climate crisis and need a strong, intelligent governing body. Richard Langseth, an opponent of legislative measures to reform the agency, said, “There is no path in the proposed legislation to replace the CRMC Council with a meaningful entity with a similar structure.” Perhaps he has not read the bill, which clearly states that there will be “a community advisory committee [whose members] shall be knowledgeable in coastal law and/or policy” and accountable to the agency director.

The measures for comprehensive reform of the CRMC are excellent examples of good governance and must be passed and signed this General Assembly term.

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Stuart Ross

Jamestown, R.I.

The writer is chair of Protect Conanicut Coastline.





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