The Senate today gave its approval to a package of legislation aimed at addressing the opioid overdose crisis. The bills will now be forwarded to the House of Representatives.

Legislators worked in conjunction with the governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force to craft the bills, which are meant to take a comprehensive approach that focuses on prevention as well as making treatment more available and accessible.

“Opioid addiction and overdoses cross all the lines of age, socio-economic status and race. We need to address this from every angle if we are going to stop the growth of the problem,” said Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who sponsored several of the bills.

The Senate approved:

  • 2016-S 2356Aaa — This bill, the Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act,  sponsored by Chairman Joshua Miller aims to ensure that those who are treated at hospitals, clinics and urgent care facilities with a substance-abuse disorder receive the appropriate care, intervention by recovery coaches and follow-up care they need to address their addiction.  It would require comprehensive discharge planning for patients treated for substance use disorders and would require insurers to cover medication-assisted addiction treatment including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. The legislation builds upon legislation passed in 2014 (2014-S 2801Aaa), which required facilities to give patients information about where they could get help upon their discharge. The bill is named for two individuals who died of overdoses during development of this act, and whose circumstances affected its development.
  • 2016-S 2460Aaa —Also sponsored by Chairman Miller, this bill would require all health insurance providers that provide prescription coverage to cover opioid antagonists (overdose preventive medicine) when purchased by a family member or friend to save the life of an overdose victim. These relatively inexpensive medicines reverse the effects of overdoses of opiates, including heroin and many commonly abused prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. They generally have no adverse effects if given to someone who is not overdosing, and are easily administered as either a nasal spray or an injection that can be delivered even through clothing.
  • 2016-S 2461A— Also sponsored by Chairman Miller, this bill would require health practitioners and health plan coverage to support clinical practices fostering use of abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drug product formulations approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Abuse-deterrent formulations are medications that are manufactured in a way that helps prevent drug abuse. Currently, only about two percent of prescribed opioids have any abuse-deterrent properties.
  • 2016-S 2579A — Sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), this bill authorizes the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to certify recovery housing facilities and programs for residential substance abuse treatment.
  • 2016-S 2693Aaa — This bill sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) would allow students who are diagnosed with substance use disorder or dependency to be referred to a Rhode Island recovery high school by a licensed clinician. It proposes funding be included in the budget to support a recovery high school.
  • 2016-S 2823Aaa — This bill sponsored by Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) would establish prescribing limits for addictive pain medication when prescribed for acute pain. It also would require full use of the state’s prescription drug monitoring system to help prevent abuse. It would create limits for dosage of initial prescriptions for acute pain management.
  • 2016-S  2874 — This bill sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) would allow for electronic system data transmission of Schedule V prescriptions.
  • 2016-S 2897 — This bill sponsored by Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) would authorize any vendor, agent, contractor or designee who operates an electronic medical health record (EMR) or clinical management system to access the prescription drug monitoring program.
  • 2016-S 2948 — This bill sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) would allow licensed chemical dependency professionals with the proper training and supervision to use auricular Acudetox as a method of treatment for chemical dependencies. Acudetox is an alternative therapy to pharmaceuticals, and the treatment consists of five sterile needles placed into specific sites on the ear.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an additional bill from the package:

  • 2016-S 2946A — Sponsored by Senator DiPalma, this bill would improve the usefulness and value of the prescription drug monitoring database program by adding analytical functions, requiring program updates at least weekly and incorporating data from similar programs in other states.

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