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5/15/2019 Speaker’s Good Samaritan overdose bill passes House
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello to help prevent overdose deaths by better protecting law enforcement and emergency medical personnel who try to save victims.

The bill (2019-H 5536), which now goes to the Senate, would add law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act, which protects them from civil or criminal liability arising from helping a person they believe is overdosing.

Many police and EMTs in the state are equipped with kits for administering naloxone – the  opioid-overdose antidote commonly known by its trade name, Narcan. In fact, a change made to the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act last year allows them to distribute naloxone kits to at-risk individuals or their families or friends so they are equipped in case of an overdose.

But the new law did not specifically shield them for liability for administering or distributing the drug. This bill would do just that, provided they act in good faith. It would also provide the protection to officers and agencies participating in the Heroin-Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE).

The Speaker is also sponsoring a separate bill (2019-H 5537) that would limit most first-time opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply when prescribed for the first time to adults, and every time for patients under 18. The bill provides exceptions for treatment related to cancer and other serious conditions, as well as medications designed to treat substance abuse or dependence. The purpose of the limit is to prevent patients from becoming addicted. That bill is currently before the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee, which held a hearing on it May 1.

“Over the course of several years, lawmakers, policymakers, medical professionals and community leaders have been collaborating and working hard to curb the opioid epidemic that has destroyed or taken the lives of so many in Rhode Island and across the nation. We are continuing to identify every possible contributing factor and implement every solution we can find to address this very complex crisis. We are making headway — recent figures show Rhode Island is experiencing fewer overdose deaths — but we still have much work to do to put an end to this devastating epidemic,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). “My legislation will make improvements that will help prevent addiction in the first place, and ensure that nothing stands in the way of an overdose victim getting the emergency help they need.”

Both pieces of legislation build upon two other bills that Speaker Mattiello sponsored last year to help prevent opioid dependency, both of which were signed into law. The first (2018-H 7416) gives patients the option of only partially filling their prescription for painkillers. The second (2018-H 7496A) establishes a procedure for individuals to file a revocable, voluntary non-opiate directive form with their doctor, indicating that the patient does not want to be administered or offered a prescription for an opiate.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923