House OKs Edwards bill renewing state’s commitment to harm reduction pilot program to combat overdose deaths


STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives yesterday passed legislation introduced by Majority Floor Manager John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton) that would extend a two-year pilot program to prevent drug overdoses through the establishment of harm reduction centers, which are a community-based resource for health screening, disease prevention and recovery assistance where persons may safely consume pre-obtained substances.

In addition to adding another two years to the program, the bill (2023-H 5044) would also permit the smoking of pre-obtained substances within a harm reduction center. It would still require the approval of the city or town council of any municipality where the center would operate.

With passage of the original law in 2021, Rhode Island became the first state in the union to sanction the operation of harm reduction centers by authorizing a pilot program. Several nations have allowed supervised injection sites for years.

“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,” said Representative Edwards. “This program, which has seen so much success over the globe, is just getting started in Rhode Island. 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.”

Project Weber/RENEW is partnering with CODAC Behavioral Healthcare to open a clinic on Huntington Avenue in Providence where people can use drugs under the supervision of a trained and experienced staff who will guide users toward recovery and support services. 

Studies of supervised injection facilities in other countries have demonstrated that they reduce overdose deaths and transmission rates for infectious disease, and increase the number of individuals who seek addiction treatment, without increasing drug trafficking or crime in the areas where they are located, according the American Medical Association.

“Since we enacted this law, the opioid crisis has only gotten worse,” said Representative Edwards. “We went from 384 overdose fatalities that year to 435 the following year, according to the state medical examiner. What we’ve been doing isn’t working; the crisis has touched every family in the state. This program will save the lives of hundreds of Rhode Islanders.”

Representative Edwards has long been in the vanguard of legislation addressing the opioid crisis, and was selected as a 2019 Opioid Policy Fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures. That same year, he sponsored a state law to improve hospital discharge planning to better help patients with drug and mental health emergencies with recovery.

In 2021, the General Assembly enacted a law he introduced to exclude the possession of buprenorphine from those controlled substances that can result in criminal penalties. Buprenorphine is a prescription drug used to treat opioid use disorder.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2023-S 0026) has been introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.


Officials in Greenfield, Iowa say search and rescue efforts are continuing after a tornado tore through the small town last night. Multiple deaths have been reported, but numbers won't be released until crews have completed their search efforts. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said the state will be requesting aid from the federal government.        Closing arguments are set for Tuesday in former President Trump's criminal hush money trial in New York. Judge Juan Merchan said he plans on getting the final instructions to the prosecution and defense by the end of Thursday. This is a key part of the trial in that it focuses on what the jury can consider to be a crime. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover-up an alleged sexual encounter with adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2006.        The Feds plan to use Hunter Biden's infamous laptop as evidence against him at his upcoming gun trial in Delaware. Special counsel David Weiss made that known in court filing Wednesday. Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to lying about his drug use in 2018 in order to buy a gun.        A new poll shows President Biden with a razor-thin lead over former President Trump in the presidential race. The Quinnipiac University survey shows 48-percent of voters supporting Biden, while 47-percent back Trump in a head-to-head matchup. When factoring in other candidates, Biden gets 41-percent support and Trump 38-percent, while Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy draws 14-percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein and independent candidate Cornel West each get two-percent.        Pedestrians are twice as likely to get hit by an electric or hybrid vehicle than a gas-powered one. According to a new study from researchers in London, the quiet operation of EVs is the main factor. The study found that pedestrians in noisy, urban settings were three times more likely to get struck by an EV.        The NHL's Eastern Conference Finals begin tonight. The Florida Panthers will head to New York to take on the Rangers in game one. Tomorrow, the Dallas Stars will take on the Edmonton Oilers in game one of the Western Conference Finals.