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9/24/2021 Health bills signed into law
PROVIDENCE, RI – Sen. Joshua Miller, Rep. John Edwards, Rep. Stephen Casey and Rep. Deborah Fellela today joined Gov. Daniel McKee as he signed their health-related bills into law.
  • 2021-S 0016B2021-H 5245A: Sponsored by Senator Joshua Miller and Representative John Edwards, this legislation enables the state to explore establishing a pilot program to create harm reduction centers to help prevent drug overdose deaths.
  • 2021-S 0065A2021-H 6328: Sponsored by Senator Joshua Miller and Representative John Edwards, this legislation decriminalizes buprenorphine.
  • 2021-S 0256Aaa2021-H 5098A: Sponsored by Senator Joshua Miller and Representative Deborah Fellela, this legislation creates penalties for irresponsible prescription practices to help combat the opioid epidemic.
  • 2021-S 0004Baa2021-H 6032Aaa: Sponsored by Senator Joshua Miller and Representative Stephen Casey, this legislation expands telemedicine coverage requirements for insurers and requires that all Rhode Island Medicaid programs cover telemedicine visits.
“We are working every day to make Rhode Islander a healthier and safer place to live for all,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I am proud to sign bills into law that prioritize wellness and set Rhode Island apart as a leader in opioid use treatment as well as access to telemedicine. I commend our legislative partners for their steadfast commitment to improving health and wellness across Rhode Island.”
S-0016B/H-5245A: “The opioid epidemic has become a tremendous public health crisis, with overdoses of prescription and non-prescription opioids claiming a record number of lives,” said Representative Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton). “Not only do harm reduction centers severely mitigate the chance of overdose, they are a gateway to treatment and rehabilitation of people with substance abuse disorder. These locations will be under the supervision of trained medical staff who can direct addicts toward substance use disorder treatment. It’s a way to tackle this epidemic while saving lives in the process.”
“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,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. “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. Especially as overdose deaths have climbed during the pandemic and fentanyl-laced drugs continue to pose a lethal threat to unwitting users, we could prevent needless death and turn lives around with a program like this.”
S-0065A/H-6328: “Buprenorphine can be a real survival tool,” said Representative Edwards. “This legislation will prevent overdoses and save lives by encouraging people with substance use disorders to choose buprenorphine over heroin.”
“Buprenorphine is an effective medication-assisted treatment,” said Senator Miller. “It offers benefits to those with opioid use disorders when treatment in a methadone clinic is not appropriate or is less convenient.”
S-0256Aaa/H-5098A: “Our opioids crisis is, in part, fueled by addictions that started with prescriptions for painkillers. While most providers take their role in preventing addiction very seriously, there must be real consequences for the few who don’t. The consequences suffered by addicted patients are far worse,” said Chairman Miller.
“In many cases, opioid addiction begins with prescribed painkillers,” said Representative Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston). “The ramifications of reckless over-prescribing has led to an epidemic that has harmed society and torn families apart. This legislation will provide some serious consequences for the handful of physicians who are neglecting to prevent addiction.”
S-0004Baa, H-6032Aaa: “Telemedicine has been an extremely valuable tool for maintaining health since the pandemic began. As its use increased, the public and our health care providers have become more adept at and comfortable using it, too. While its broader use may have been an adaptation for the pandemic, it’s also an improvement to our health care delivery system that will serve us well long after the pandemic. Telemedicine gets health care to people safely, efficiently and effectively, wherever they are. Embracing and expanding it as a permanent option for Rhode Islanders will improve health care access now and in the future,” said Chairman Miller.
“Telemedicine is one more way we can make it easier for Rhode Islanders to access the health care they need,” said Chairman Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket). “Our experience with its use over the last year or more has shown us that it is an effective way to provide a great many health services. It makes it easier for people who are housebound, those who may not have reliable transportation, and those who simply find it quicker and more convenient than visiting an office. It advances public health by encouraging and helping people to maintain their health.”

IN PHOTO: From left, Rep. John Edwards, Rep. Edward T. Cardillo, Rep. Deborah A. Fellala, Sen. Joshua Miller, Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo and Rep. Stephen M. Casey.

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