Rhode Island Lawmakers Approve Safe Consumption Sites for Drug Use

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On Tuesday, Rhode Island lawmakers passed a bill to establish safe consumption sites. In general, this facility will be for people to use illegal drugs under medical supervision. 

If signed into law, this legislation will launch a two-year pilot program. As a result, the program will be for safe consumption sites for drug use. First, the measure passed in a full House of Representatives floor vote. Later, the chamber signed off on an amended Senate bill. Next, the bill will return to the Senate floor for consideration.

The proposal will also need to gain approval from the city or town council of any municipality where the facility wishes to operate. 

“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 John Edwards. “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.”

The Advisory Committee

Its important to realize, if this legislation passes, it will make Rhode Island the first in the U.S. to authorize a harm reduction pilot program. 

The bill will create an advisory committee. The committee will recommend the Department of Health strategies to expand the potential safety and public health benefits of safe consumption sites. They will also advise on the proper disposal of hypodermic needles and syringes. 

This advisory committee will be responsible for creating a recovery plan. The plan will be used for the people utilizing the centers. The committee will also need to recommend ways to comply with federal, state, and local laws impacting the operation and creation of the centers. 

Success in Other Countries 

In other countries, studies from supervised injection facilities have demonstrated that they reduce overdose deaths and transmission rates for infectious diseases. They also found that the facilities increase the number of individuals who seek addiction treatment. According to the American Medical Association, all of this occurs without increasing drug trafficking or crime in their locations.

“The opioid crisis has greatly worsened during the pandemic,” said Representative Edwards. “In fact, we’re at the point where we have one death every day from overdoses. It has touched every family in the state. This bill will save the lives of hundreds of Rhode Islanders.”

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