New law expands Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio to expand the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act has been signed into law.
The bill (2019-H 5536A, 2019-S 0953), which passed the General Assembly in June and took effect immediately upon its signature by the governor July 15, adds 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.
The new law is one of several the two legislative leaders successfully enacted this year and in recent years to help address the opioids crisis.
“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.”
Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio also both sponsored the creation of the Opioid Stewardship Fund (2019-S 0798A, 2019-H 6189), which later became part of the 2020 state budget bill, to assess a fee on pharmaceutical companies that sell opioids to pay for addiction prevention and treatment programs; as well as a new law (2019-H 5537A, 2019-S 0981) to limit first-time prescriptions to prevent addiction.
Also enacted this year was legislation (2019-S 0799Aaa, 2019-H 6184Aaa) sponsored by President Ruggerio and Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) to prevent insurers from denying or limiting life insurance to people who fill a prescription for naloxone. Naloxone is available through an open prescription 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.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903