PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo, joined by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller, Representative David A. Bennett, legislators, advocates and individuals in recovery, today signed a broad, aggressive suite of legislation aimed at preventing drug overdose deaths. Among other measures, the bills will set opioid prescribing parameters for health care providers, require hospitals to connect overdose victims with treatment and recovery resources, and require insurers to cover life-saving overdose medication.
"I've met with families in communities across Rhode Island whose loved ones have died from drug overdose, and I am proud to stand with many of them today and say we are taking meaningful action that will save lives," Raimondo said. "This legislation is the result of unprecedented collaboration between the General Assembly, prescribers, insurers, health advocates, families, and members of my overdose task force, and it represents a major step forward in our work to promote prevention, rescue, treatment and recovery. I want to thank the Speaker and Senate President, the bill sponsors, and Chairman Miller and Representative Bennett in particular for championing these bills and continuing to make Rhode Island a leader in addressing the nation's overdose crisis."
In Rhode Island, the Raimondo administration's collaborative efforts to drive down overdose deaths have been widely endorsed by the medical community, and the state's unique approach has been praised by national experts. The bills signed today are vital to advancing the work of Raimondo's Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, which released an ambitious action plan in May that outlines steps to reduce overdose deaths by one-third within three years. In the first few weeks of the legislative session that started in January, Raimondo also moved swiftly to sign legislation approved by the General Assembly to extend Good Samaritan laws and remove barriers to calling emergency services in overdose situations.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28) and Representative David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20) each sponsored multiple overdose-related bills signed by Raimondo.
"The opioid crisis is not simple, so we need a comprehensive approach to address it," Miller said. "With these bills, we aim to prevent addiction by more carefully controlling and monitoring drugs as they are prescribed and dispensed. We've also improved coverage for treatment and made follow-up care more diligent for those who suffer from addiction. There's not going to be one silver bullet that eliminates opioid addiction. But by addressing the ways it could be avoided and the myriad of difficulties people face when they become addicted, we've made a lot of changes that, together, can make a difference for many Rhode Islanders."
"We must attack the opioid epidemic from every angle to stop the damage and loss of life it is causing in Rhode Island," Bennett said. "We've enacted a well-rounded package of legislation that will take aim at opioids by helping those who've already been affected by them, and taking concrete steps to prevent people from getting hooked in the first place."
The bill-signing event was attended by Chairman, President & CEO of Hasbro, Inc. Brian Goldner and his wife Barbara, the parents of Brandon Goldner, who died of an overdose last year, and by Brown University Assistant Professor Samuel Perry, whose brother Alexander also died of an overdose. Perry is the son of former State Senator Rhoda Perry. Both Brandon Goldner and Alexander Perry had visited emergency departments because of substance use disorder issues prior to their fatal overdoses. One of the pieces of legislation signed by Raimondo, called the Alexander Perry & Brandon Goldner Act, requires comprehensive discharge planning for patients with substance use disorder.
"The overdose crisis does not discriminate. It can affect any family, from any part of the state, at any time," Brian Goldner said. "I want to thank Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly for their leadership, and for working to ensure that people who end up in the emergency department get connected with the potentially life-saving treatment and recovery resources they need."
"I commend the efforts of the General Assembly and the Governor to end the stigma of addiction and take meaningful steps to prevent overdoses, promote treatment, and save lives," Sam Perry said. "My hope is that this legislation will prevent any family from having to experience what we did. Addiction is a disease, but recovery is possible."
The bill signing, which took place at a recovery house administered by Bridgemark Addiction Recovery Services, follows the passage of bills sponsored by Miller and Bennett, as well as Senators Archambault, Crowley, DiPalma, Goldin, Lynch Prata, Nesselbush, and Picard, and Representatives Blazejewski, Casey, Fellela, McNamara and Regunberg:
• (H7616A, S2356Aaa The Alexander Perry & Brandon Goldner Act): Requires comprehensive discharge planning for patients with substance use disorders and requires insurers to cover expanded medication-assisted treatment.
• (H8224A, S2823Aaa): Sets out guidelines for opioid prescribing practices by limiting the length of most first-time opioid prescriptions for acute pain. Requires pharmacies to upload dispensing data to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) within 24 hours.
• (H7710A, S2460Aaa): Requires all insurers to cover naloxone and related devices, including in cases where the medication is intended for patients other than the insured.
• (H7847, S2897): Allows the PDMP to be electronically connected to electronic medical records systems.
• (H7849, S2874): Adds Schedule V prescriptions to the PDMP.
• (H8326, S2946A): Requires DOH to look for federal funding opportunities to improve the PDMP, such as by adding additional analytical functions and incorporating data from similar programs in other states.
• (H8056A, S2579B): Authorizes BHDDH to develop a process to certify recovery housing facilities for residential substance use disorder treatment.
• (H8022A, S2822A): Allows patients to synchronize certain drug refills for chronic conditions by requesting a limited supply (less than 30 days), with pro-rata cost sharing applied by the insurer.
• (H7130, S2948): Allows licensed chemical dependency professionals with the proper training to use treatment known as auricular acu-detox.
The budget passed by the General Assembly also includes $3.5 million of Raimondo's $4 million request to address the overdose crisis, including $2 million to provide medication-assisted treatment at the Adult Correctional Institutions and $1.5 million for Medicaid to support Centers of Excellence for addiction treatment and expand the use of peer-recovery coaches.
The bill signing ceremony comes two weeks after Rhode Island unveiled an enhanced, statewide, multimedia public education campaign to prevent overdoses. The campaign includes a new dedicated phone line, 401-942-STOP (401-942-7867), that connects individuals in crisis with treatment and recovery supports. The phone line is staffed by licensed chemical dependency counselors and is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
There were more than 250 overdose deaths in Rhode Island in 2015. Since 2011, nearly 1,200 Rhode Islanders have died of accidental overdoses, a number that exceeds the number of deaths from car crashes, firearms, and fires combined during the same period.