General Assembly OKs bill allowing AA/NA meetings during a state of emergency


STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) to permit Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to hold meetings during a declared disaster emergency.

The bill (2021-H 5281A, 2021-S 0988) would provide that mental health and substance use disorder services provided by the organizations would be considered an essential health benefit.

“The services provided by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are not only essential, they are necessary for the public health,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “During the pandemic, AA meetings were designated as a social gathering rather than an essential service, while liquor stores were considered essential and permitted to remain open. AA is no more a social gathering than rehab, especially when many of the members are court-ordered to attend meetings.”

The bill would mandate that adequate measures be implemented to provide the services safely within whatever guidelines may be established to address the issues relative to the declared disaster emergency.

“For those in recovery from a substance use disorder, social support is critical,” said Senator Murray. “Better access to these services means better outcomes for patients. The services provided by AA and NA are as essential as any other medical, therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment, and we must ensure that they are allowed to continue during any future states of emergency.”  

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.



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