Assembly approves bill to permanently continue overdose death analysis

Following year of record overdose deaths, measure sponsored by Sen. Goodwin, Rep. Potter helps to identify trends to address


STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly has approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Brandon C. Potter to permanently require the state to analyze overdose deaths to help identify ways to reduce their prevalence.

In response to the opioid overdose epidemic, in 2018 the General Assembly enacted a temporary requirement – also introduced by Senator Goodwin — that a team of health and public safety professionals must review each overdose death in the state for the purpose of examining emerging trends, identifying potential demographic, geographic, and structural points for prevention and other factors.

The team provides an annual report to the governor and House and Senate leaders each December to help leaders respond to the crisis effectively. But the requirement expired with the 2020 report.

This year’s legislation removes the sunset provision to make the reports a permanent requirement.

“After year with a 25 percent increase in overdose deaths, Rhode Island cannot afford to stop studying what’s fueling all these deaths. We need to know which drugs exactly are the biggest issues, how they are being taken, where they are coming from, the circumstances leading to the death — the more we know, the more we can do to identify ways and resources to prevent more people from being lost to this tragic epidemic,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

Said Representative Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston), “As we’ve seen with the emergence of fentanyl in recent years, the trends in drug overdose deaths change over time, and our state must be able to identify shifts to effectively respond to them. In a sense, looking very closely at the data from all of the people lost can etch out a sliver of hope from this tragedy, since it helps us find ways to save other individuals and families from experiencing the same suffering and heartbreak. We need every tool – especially information – available to us to address the overdose epidemic.”

The bill was requested by the Department of Health.

“In order to successfully address the worsening overdose crisis, and given the evolving nature of the epidemic including the impact of the COVlD-19 pandemic on overdose and overdose deaths, it is crucial to continue to identify and understand factors contributing to increasing number of deaths and changes in affected populations over time,” Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said in written testimony in support of the bill.

The Senate bill (2021-S 0713) passed the House in concurrence yesterday. The House bill (2021-H 6014) passed the Senate in concurrence Tuesday. Both bills now head to the governor.

The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston), Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence) and Rep. David Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence).



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