Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin applauded the final passage of the federal Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) spearheaded by United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. The Act addresses the addiction crisis unfolding throughout the country through new programs to prevent and treat addiction, provide funding for existing drug prevention and treatment programs, and support those in recovery.
In response to the Act's passage, Attorney General commented,
"I commend Senator Whitehouse for his leadership and commitment in recognizing the need for a comprehensive approach to this issue and for ushering this critically important bill through to final passage. The epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse and overdoses is a public health crisis in this country. In Rhode Island in 2015, 258 people lost their lives to overdoses, and according to preliminary data from the RI Department of Health, there have been 47 fentanyl-related deaths and 9 heroin-related deaths confirmed thus far in 2016. These figures are expected to rise once testing is completed on additional suspected overdose fatalities.
Law enforcement has always been on the frontline when it comes to drug crises, but we cannot arrest ourselves out of this epidemic. We need to confront this challenge with a comprehensive strategy that includes prevention and education, law enforcement, reduction of overdose deaths, evidence-based treatment, and support for those in, or seeking, recovery. Only through a comprehensive approach that leverages evidence-based law enforcement and health care services, including treatment, can we stop and reverse current trends. That is exactly what CARA does."
The Act expands alcohol and drug prevention and education, expands the availability of Narcan, increases collaboration with law enforcement and criminal justice systems, creates more disposal and turn-in sites for unwanted prescription medications, increases availability of treatment including evidence-based and medication-assisted programs, and creates prescription drug monitoring programs to help at-risk individuals access critical services. In addition, it provides funding for specialized courts that confront substance abuse and addiction issues including the Veterans Court and Drug Court, two programs supported by the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General.
At the urging of Attorney General Kilmartin, the National Association of Attorneys General supported the passage of the Act. Kilmartin continued, "Last Fall, I stood with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and my fellow attorneys general across the country to urge for the Act's passage. While we can celebrate this accomplishment in getting it passed – no small feat in today's political climate – our work is far from over. Law enforcement must continue to work with healthcare professionals, public health policy makers, and substance abuse and recovery experts if we are going to win this battle against addiction."