Senate OKs Miller bill to explore ‘harm reduction center’ pilot
Effort aimed at reducing overdose deaths, promoting treatment
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller to explore the creation of a pilot program to create “harm reduction centers” to help prevent drug overdose deaths.
The centers would be supervised facilities for drug users, staffed by health care professionals who could help in cases of overdose and make treatment referrals. Often referred to as “safe injection facilities” or “supervised injection facilities,” there are about 120 such facilities operating in 12 countries worldwide.
“If we are truly going to rein in the drug overdose epidemic, we must recognize drug addiction as the health problem it is, rather than as merely a crime. People who are addicted need help and protection from the most dangerous possibilities of addiction. Having a place where someone can save them from an overdose and where there are people offering them the resources they need for treatment is a much better alternative to people dying alone in their homes or their cars. We could prevent needless death and turn lives around with a program like this,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).
The legislation (2019-S 0297A) would authorize the Department of Health to establish regulations and explore the creation of a harm reduction pilot program for people to safely consume controlled substances they have obtained on their own. The centers must be staffed with health care professionals to prevent overdoses and make treatment referrals.
The bill also establishes a nine-member advisory committee made up of various stakeholders from the realms of health care, law enforcement and addiction to help the Department of Health maximize the effectiveness of the program and operate the centers in the safest possible way.
Under the bill, centers would be allowed only with the approval of the municipality in which they are located. The bill also stipulates that the programs should be designed to provide liability protection to the centers’ property owners and to staff at the centers.
According the American Medical Association, studies of supervised injection facilities in other countries have demonstrated that they reduce overdose deaths and transmission rates for infectious disease, and increase the number of individuals who seek addiction treatment, without increasing drug trafficking or crime in the areas where they are located.
Several other states and municipalities are considering similar harm reduction measures, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California and Philadelphia.
The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) and Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).
It now goes to the House, where Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) is sponsoring companion legislation (2019-H 5545).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903