McKee signs safe-injection-site bill, other health care initiatives

GOV. DANIEL J. MCKEE on Friday signed four health-related bills into law, including one creating a pilot program for safe injection sites. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

PROVIDENCE – A first-of-its-kind program that would offer safe, supervised places to use illegal substances to offer safe injection sites was among a series of health-related bills signed by Gov. Daniel J. McKee on Friday.

The ceremonial signing makes official legislation passed by the 2021 General Assembly allowing the state to test the waters on “harm reduction centers,” where people can use illegal drugs under supervision. The legislation itself does not create the sites, but rather allows privately funded operators to set them up with municipal approval under a two-year, pilot program. 

“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,” State Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement. “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.”

A number of other cities and states have considered but ultimately not approved similar programs amid legal and safety concerns. Rhode Island’s is the first to become law at a statewide level.

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Other bills signed into law by McKee on Friday include:

  •  Decriminalizing buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid addiction including as one of two ingredients in the brand name drug Suboxone.
  • Strengthening penalties, including fines,  for health care professionals who irresponsibly or over-prescribe medication that furthers opioid addiction.
  • Expanding telemedicine coverage requirements for insurers, including through the Rhode Island Medicaid program.

 

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