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6/27/2019 Lawmakers limit first-time opioid prescriptions, expand Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act
Bills sponsored by Speaker, Senate President part of continuing effort to address overdose crisis

STATE HOUSE – Lawmakers today approved two bills sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio to help curb the opioid overdose epidemic.

The bills, which now go to the governor, place limits on first-time opioid prescriptions and expand the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act to include law enforcement and emergency medical personnel.

The bills are among several that the two legislative leaders have sponsored this year and in previous years taking aim at the opioid overdoes crisis. They also both sponsored the creation of the Opioid Stewardship Fund (2019-S 0798A2019-H 6189), which later became part of the 2020 budget bill, to assess a fee on pharmaceutical companies that sell opioids to pay for addiction prevention and treatment programs.

“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).

Said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “We are doing everything we can to address the opioid crisis from every direction, from better interventions for preventing addiction to requiring the pharmaceutical companies who have promoted these drugs to help pay for the problems they’ve caused. I’m proud that my colleagues in both chambers of the General Assembly have made this issue a priority. We all understand that this epidemic is in every one of our districts, affecting the lives of people we know. It’s personal for just about everyone here, and we’re going to keep working to put an end to this crisis.”

One of the measures (2019-H 5537A, 2019-S 0981) passed today would restrict first-time prescriptions for adults to the maximum daily dosage established by the Department of Health. It would also restrict all prescriptions to children to 20 doses, with exceptions for certain conditions and medicines designed for substance abuse or opioid dependence treatment.

The other (2019-H 5536), 2019-S 0953) 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.

President Ruggerio also sponsored another opioid bill (2019-S 0799Aaa) this session to prevent insurers from denying life insurance to people who fill a prescription for naloxone, which is available to anyone in Rhode Island and is carried by many people who do not use drugs but keep it to prevent another person’s death. The Assembly gave its final approval to that bill Monday. Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) sponsored the House companion bill (2019-H 6184Aaa).

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