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3/10/2014 Health and Human Services Committee introduces bills that take aim at region’s opioid crisis
STATE HOUSE – In light of the epidemic of fatal overdoses that has recently taken hold in the region, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee is concentrating its efforts on a package of legislation concerning overdose and drug abuse prevention.

“Opioid use and overdoses have swiftly moved to the forefront of burgeoning health concerns in Rhode Island this winter. Our state, as well as the region, has witnessed deaths from overdoses at double the typical rate. Our committee wants to focus our efforts on doing everything we can to stop this crisis, both through drug abuse prevention and treatment efforts, and by broadening doctors’ ability to prescribe the safest treatments to their patients and to ensure that they are following their treatment plan,” said HHS Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

The committee is contemplating a portfolio of legislation to address the growing problems of drug abuse and overdoses, including several bills that have already been introduced:
  • Chairman Miller is preparing to introduce legislation that would require mandatory health insurance coverage for certain listed drugs like Narcan that are used to intervene in opioid overdoes. The legislation also calls for health insurance coverage of medications like Suboxone and buprenorphine that can be used to treat addiction to opioids. In addition, the legislation would call for health care settings to put into place discharge plans that ensure patients with substance abuse disorders leave a with a follow-up appointment already scheduled for them at an appropriate facility, as well as with real-time information about the availability of inpatient and outpatient services.
  • 2014-S 2534 – Sponsored by Chairman Miller, this bill would prevent health insurance policies that provide prescription coverage from requiring a beneficiary to use an opioid or another drug with a high risk of dependency before using a non-opioid or a drug with a low risk of dependency, if both could treat the same condition. The bill is meant to prevent prescription drug addiction.
  • 2014-S 2351 – This bill sponsored by Chairman Miller would redirect substance abuse prevention funds – currently provided from traffic violation fines as well as the revenue from civil penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana – specifically toward student assistance programs. The money would be distributed by grants to these programs to be established in local communities by their substance abuse prevention councils or other agencies to serve that community’s specific needs. Among these would be the educational programs to which minors would be assigned as a result of a civil infraction of possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.
  • 2014-S 2524 – Sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), this bill would allow physicians who prescribe electronically to request a notification about whether the prescription is filled, partially dispensed or not dispensed and returned to the pharmacy’s stock. This bill is aimed at helping doctors determine whether patients, particularly those with drug dependency, are in fact following their treatment plans.
  • 2014-S 2523 – This bill, sponsored by Sen. Christopher Scott Ottiano (R-Dist 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) would permit a qualified authorized designee of a practitioner or pharmacist, to access the information contained in any prescription drug monitoring database maintained by the Department of Health. It would further require practitioners to register with the prescription drug monitoring database, upon initial registration or renewal of the practitioner’s authority to prescribe controlled substances. This legislation is aimed at preventing patients from obtaining multiple prescriptions for narcotics from different doctors so that their risk of overdosing or selling them is reduced.
The bills are expected to have hearings before the Health and Human Services Committee soon.

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