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4/10/2019 President Ruggerio introduces pair of bills to address opioid overdose epidemic
STATE HOUSE, Providence – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio plans to introduce two pieces of legislation today to address the opioid overdose epidemic in Rhode Island. The bills would provide a dedicated funding stream to combat the crisis and remove a barrier to accessing lifesaving anti-overdose medication.
More than 200 Rhode Islanders have died due to accidental drug overdose in each of the last six years, and more than 300 have died each of the last three years, according to data published by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
“It is critical that we do all we can to educate Rhode Islanders about the crisis, prevent overdose incidents when possible, and support treatment and recovery programs,” said President Ruggerio. “One bill I am submitting today puts the financial burden where it belongs, on the manufacturers profiting from the sale of opioids, so that we can better address this crisis. The other bill removes a barrier that may discourage an individual from keeping NARCAN readily available. These bills build upon action we have already taken to address this public health crisis.”
NARCAN and EVZIO are brand names of naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.
The first piece of legislation is known as the “Opioid Stewardship Act.” The bill (2019-S 0798) would establish a restricted receipt account to fund opioid treatment, recovery, prevention and education services administered through several state departments, including: the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; the Department of Children, Youth and Families; the Department of Education; the Office of Veterans’ Affairs; the Department of Corrections; the Department of Corrections; and the Department of Labor and Training.
The stewardship fund would be financed by an assessment on opioid products sold or distributed in Rhode Island, up to a cap of $7.5 million. Manufacturers and distributors would be assessed based on the total number of morphine milligram equivalents, or MMEs, sold or distributed in the state.
The second bill (2019-S 0799) would address a situation experienced by some individuals who obtained naloxone, then had trouble getting life insurance. Rhode Island has an “open prescription” for naloxone, meaning any person can obtain the medication at a pharmacy.
“We as a state should be encouraging anyone who may come in contact with overdose victims to have NARCAN accessible. That’s the reason we make it available to all,” said President Ruggerio. “Individuals who work in health care, public safety and other fields may want to have NARCAN easily accessible in case there is a need for it, as might individuals who have a friend or family member struggling with an opioid addiction.”
He continued; “Filling a prescription for naloxone does not automatically mean an individual is a greater risk to the insurer. No one should be denied life insurance for the sole reason that they carry medication that they could use to save another person’s life. This legislation removes a barrier to accessing this life saving medication.”

For more information, contact:
Greg Pare, Press Secretary for the Senate
State House Room 314
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 276-5558